GREETINGS, CARBON-BASED BIPEDS! by Arthur C. Clarke

GREETINGS, CARBON-BASED BIPEDS!

Collected Works, 1934-1998

KIRKUS REVIEW

A science fiction giant (3001: The Final Odyssey, 1997, and many others), Clarke has always been equally at home in nonfiction. This selection shows his remarkably wide range of interests during seven decades. The early pieces include fannish appreciations (“Dunsany, Lord of Fantasy”) as well as book and film reviews (“The Conquest of Space,” “Destination Moon”) that tend to elevate scientific accuracy above artistic impact. A talk on the history of fictional space travel shows a wide range of reading, well beyond what usually ends up on a library’s sci-fi shelves; later articles include prefaces to classic works by Wells and tributes to such colleagues as Robert Bloch and Gene Roddenberry. Clarke has also been an active force in creating the future, as the 1948 paper in which he invented the idea of artificial communications satellites reminds us. He has also been a speaker for rational investigation of the fringes of science: two articles on UFOs from the 1950s show an impressive knowledge of unusual optical and meteorological phenomena, as well as of scientific history. Clarke’s pioneering interest in underwater exploration finds expression in an early article on the future of scuba-diving resorts and in excerpts from several books that grew out of his own diving expeditions. This collection is also a reminder of Clarke’s rarely matched knowledge of the nuts and bolts of space travel, from the days when the V-2 rocket was state-of-the-art to the shuttle era. Topics range from a look at astronautical fallacies (e.g., the difference between orbital weightlessness and “escaping gravity”), to the potential of the space age in opening a new Renaissance, to a proposal to safeguard Earth from meteor and comet impacts, to orbital sex. This just scratches the surface of this fascinating collection, in which Clarke’s reasonable, witty, and often elegant approach illuminates subjects from fractal math and Martian geology to advanced communications—all given context by Clarke’s entertaining prefaces. Essential Clarke; highly recommended.

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-19893-0
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2000




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