A CHOICE OF FUTURES
The title notwithstanding, this is not Clarke's answer to Orwell or a yeasty catalogue of predictions; rather, it's a collection of recent addresses, articles, and miscellany. Yes, some of the pieces address the future in Clarke's ebullient terms--the "spring" of the title. By 2030 he predicts permanent space labs, wrist telephones, a lunar base, commercial fusion power, manned planetary exploration, space cities, and robot interstellar probes. His old favorite, the space elevator (literally a cable from earth to a stationary-orbit base), makes its appearance several times, with the didactic point that it was independently invented by several creative minds. Clarke's own role in the development of communication satellites is worthy of attention. These, he feels, are the vehicles that can make the world truly a global village, and he takes pride in what they have meant to his adopted country, Sri Lanka. Some pieces pertaining to the sci fi genre provide a little novelty. Clarke reports on his exchange of letters with a doddering George Bernard Shaw, and reviews a number of writers who contributed to space and fantasy writing before the present bonanza--among them Lord Dunsany, Olaf Stapledon, David Lasser. Leonard Woolf comes up for separate attention as the author of Village in the Jungle, which Clarke lauds as an extraordinary portrait of Singhalese life that's become a classic in the native tongue. (Woolf was an assistant government agent in Ceylon before Virginia and Bloomsbury.) There are other, more personal references to childhood, to friends, literary agents, and the colorful folk at N.Y.'s Chelsea Hotel. In all: a fragmented omnium-gatherum, disappointingly heavy with familiar items.