Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey didn't inspire me to read Clarke's books (although a beautiful movie in itself, especially when I got a little older). He seems too dry, scientific, and metaphysical.
I prefer science fiction that is visually lush fantasy, weird and bizarre or mixed with horror. Like C. A. Smith, or Jack Vance. Films like Alien.
But however, I am set on possibly reading two of his books that have caught my interest from blurbs and reviews. The City and the Stars, and Childhood's End. Especially the first one appears to be filled with bizarre future imagery. The second one mostly because everyone is raving about it.
(I seem to know the stories by now. Unfortunately, in reviews, like on Amazon and elsewhere, people seem to think they are making valuable contributions by retelling the whole storylines, from beginning to end.)
Some say Childhood's End will give you the true Cosmic Perspective (perhaps Lovecraft would have found this one to his liking!?). Others say it is far too depressive to be enjoyable. I suppose this entirely depends on from which end in life you are coming! I am not completely convinced I want to take on this book; the aliens are supposedly presented like mediaeval devils, with horns, wings, and tails, which sounds disappointing, and not very convincing to me. Seems like Clarke is simply using them for some kind of personal vendetta against Christianity. (Could also be that the anguish and terror from meeting the aliens, are causing our own inner nightmare images to project.) But I can say, that reading the first few paragraphs, gave chills running down my spine.
The book that has mainly caught my interest however, is The City and the Stars.
Post by cauldronbrewer on Jul 10, 2012 15:12:54 GMT
Childhood's End is divided into three sections. The first, based on a short story ("Guardian Angel"), was my favorite; it's hokey but entertaining. The middle section didn't do much for me. In the final section, the author has a go at blowing the reader's mind. Mine was partially blown.
Clarke apparently wrote a Lovecraft parody titled "At the Mountains of Murkiness," but I've never read it. I'd be interested to hear the reactions of anyone who has.
Post by David A. Riley on Jul 10, 2012 15:51:51 GMT
For the past week I've been listening to some audio discs of the collected works of Arthur C. Clarke while I've been driving my car. They have been very variable, some showing their age very badly, though they still have a charm about them. Hardly dry at all, in my opinion, though they are very scientific and do have a certain metaphysical quality about some of them.
Guardian Angel is one of them. Quite enjoyable, though the punchline where you get a hint of the physical shape of the aliens is a bit naff. It might have seemed clever at the time.
His best seem to be the ones that cover great sweeps of history, sometimes with whole eons of geological time passing in a bare few paragraphs, which in a writer less sure of his science would not have worked half so well.
The connection initiative there, with Dunsany reaching out to Lovecraft's work, is touching. . . .
It makes me happy if both Clarke and Dunsany read "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath". Lovecraft's tale should have lit a warm fire, especially in Dunsany's heart, and garnered admiration and respect to dwell in their minds for Lovecraft. He surely deserved that.
The connection initiative there Dunsany makes to Lovecraft's work is touching. . . .
It makes me happy if both Clarke and Dunsany read "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath". Lovecraft's tale should have lit a warm fire, in especially Dunsany's heart, and garnered admiration and respect to dwell in their minds for Lovecraft. Lovecraft surely deserved that.
I assume (and hope) he didn't read M. R. James's comment about Supernatural Horror in Literature...
I've just re-read The Star (google turned up a pdf). I think there is maybe a bit of Lovecraft in there too - there is a shared worldview of the universe as a cold and godless place. It's a brilliant story, even if it is somewhat depressing.
Post by cauldronbrewer on Jul 11, 2012 21:15:04 GMT
"The Star" made quite an impression on me when I read it as a teenager. I read it again last year in Asimov, Waugh, and Greenberg's The Twelve Frights of Christmas and thought it held up well. As others have said, it's a major downer.
On the other hand, I thought "The Nine Billion Names of God" was rather funny. The only other Clarke I've read is the novel Earthlight, which is plausible but on the dry side.
I did find the James commentary interesting. Here it is, for the curious:
In it is a disquisition of nearly 40 pages of double columns on Supernatural Horror in Literature by one H.P. Lovecraft, whose style is of the most offensive. He uses the word cosmic about 24 times < ;D - CB>. But he has taken pains to search about & treats the subject from its beginnings to MRJ, to whom he devotes several columns.
I really enjoyed reading the Clarke/Dunsany correspondence.
Post by Craig Herbertson on Jul 12, 2012 10:35:10 GMT
I liked Clarke as a kid and certainly he wrote a few very good catchy shorts. I tried reading some his later efforts recently - one about some female astronaut where he'd got advice about how a female thinks - it was clever, well written, not very engaging and gave the huge impression of a scientist writing down - 'so I put down 'emotion', 'children' and 'colours' here' when attempting to outline how the fair sex thinks.
He was definitely a clever bloke and part of my childhood where SF was an anonymous wall of entertainment and it didn't really matter who was driving the spaceship.
Childhood's End. . . . I can say, that reading the first few paragraphs, gave chills running down my spine.
This was from Clarke's revised version of the first chapter. I have since (at Amazon) compared it to the original, and must say that the selection of words in the revision, makes it much more powerful, which probably is what gave me my chills.