ARTHUR C. CLARKE: The Authorized Biography by Neil McAleer

ARTHUR C. CLARKE: The Authorized Biography

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Science journalist McAleer (The Mind-Boggling Universe, 1987; The Body Almanac, 1985) turns his attention to one of the giants of his own field. Arthur C. Clarke has been in the forefront of science fiction since WW II, and fans of his fiction will naturally be most interested in details of his sf career. But McAleer gives attention to Clarke's impressive credentials as a pioneer advocate of space travel, a stimulating science writer, and an underwater explorer as well. There's also much here on Clarke's childhood on a Somerset farm, tinkering with telescopes and crystal radios; his role in the RAF's development of radar during WW II; his days in the British Interplanetary Society, well before most reputable scientists believed in space travel; his short-lived marriage to an American woman; his settlement in Sri Lanka; and his sometimes exasperating collaboration with Stanley Kubrick on the film 2001:A Space Odyssey. McAleer draws on anecdotes from Clarke's friends, family, and colleagues to make the portrait more personal, but, unfortunately, the external events of Clarke's life are not especially exciting. The most dramatic incident in the book--the discovery by Clarke's diving firm of a sunken Arab trading ship with a load of silver--finds Clarke himself on the sidelines, having little to do with either the find or the recovery of the treasure. And Clarke has never been especially articulate about his own writing. McAleer is sufficiently honest about his subject's imperfections (McAleer quotes unfavorable reviews, and details a squabble between Clarke and Robert Heinlein) to avoid whitewash, but, despite plentiful detail, he rarely conveys any sense of revelation about Clarke's life, or any real insight into his writings. Useful to specialists and students of sf, but likely to disappoint the more general reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1992
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Contemporary