Mar 19 2008

RIP Arthur C Clarke

Category: BooksChrisM @ 5:37 am

Not much to add, I know little about the man’s private life, but enjoyed many of his books. Thanks for all your work.


May 16 2007

Sunstorm (A Time Odyssey)

Category: BooksChrisM @ 1:15 am

Sunstorm (A Time Odyssey) – Arthur C. Clarke

Again also featuring the writing talents of Stephen Baxter, this book carries on with the story from Time’s Eye. It is actually quite difficult to talk about this book without giving away the ending of the first in the series.
Suffice to say, there wouldn’t be a second in the series if the first ended in the death of too many main characters or the end of the world 🙂
This time around, there is a threat to Earth from the Sun, and leaders of all the nations must work hard to come up with a plan to avoid annihilation. Unfortunately, it turns out the Sun’s massive solar flares aren’t natural – someone or something wants Earth to be void of humans, the first strike effects electronics, the next one could mean the downfall of the human race!
Although it makes sense to read Time’s Eye before reading this novel, if you can only find Sunstorm in your local book store, things are explained well enough that you won’t be left feeling like there major unexplained holes in the logic of the plot here.
Again, I liked this novel quite a lot, it was responsible for quite a few late nights.

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May 15 2007

Time’s Eye (A Time Odyssey)

Category: BooksChrisM @ 10:11 pm

Time’s Eye (A Time Odyssey) – Arthur C. Clarke

Featuring the writing talents of Stephen Baxter. I’m not sure whether this is a true 50/50 partnership, or whether Stephen Baxter does the writing, and Arthur C Clarke provides the idea and plot outline. In either case, I have to admit I slightly preferred this form, compared to Clarke’s more well known classics.

It may just be the style is now more modern, or possibly even dumbed down, but whatever the reason, I actually felt more drawn in by both this and the sequel (Sunstorm). The main theme covered is time travel, though not quite in the normal way it is used in other books. A cataclysmic event takes place on Earth, which results in multiple ‘slices’ of time physically sitting next to each other. I’ve probably not explained that very well, sorry. Imagine a plot of land, pre-disaster, all sitting in the same place, geographically & time wise. Now a few minutes later, you find a strip of land next to you is actually from a hundred, or even thousands of years ago. Weird, but not too scary? Now imagine that whatever was on that land in the past, is now with you in the present! (Though you could probably argue semantics over the use of the word present.)

So, now you have people from a massive span in time all lumped together, with a lot of potential for dischord and even war. However, don’t forget the outside influence as well – humans are not the only life forms involved in this story!

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May 15 2007

The Star

Category: BooksChrisM @ 8:33 pm

The Star – Arthur C. Clarke

OK, as promised, I’ll now be finishing off the Arthur C Clarke book reviews. To anyone who is new to this blog, these reviews are just my thoughts on the books that I’ve read since coming to Kazakhstan…

Continue reading “The Star”

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May 10 2007

3001: The Final Odyssey

Category: BooksChrisM @ 1:03 am

3001: The Final Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke

Back in 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of the characters (Frank Poole) dies due to the actions of HAL; in 3001: The Final Odyssey he returns! Arthur C. Clarke takes the opportunity to describe his vision for earth’s far off future. Given his the accuracy of some of his previous predictions, I’d be surprised if a few of them didn’t come true, and perhaps quicker than the 1000 odd year gap he envisaged.
The slabs so important in the previous 3 novels obviously star again, this time the original one from the beginning of the 2001 book rears its head, and is discovered. This novel in fact could be quite well described as tying up most of the loose ends presented in the earlier books; the essence of HAL and Bowman return, and are needed to try and avert the cataclysmic fate that human kind face. The aliens look to be judging humans as un-worthy of carrying on their existence, although the evidence used does date back to 2001, so things have improved.
I’m loathe to talk about the plot too much, as I don’t want to spoil the surprises for any potential readers; if you’d like details on any particular aspect of the book, leave me a comment and I’ll e-mail you the response.
If you’ve read the three other books in this series, you’re not very likely to decide to skip this one, and if you’ve not yet read the others, I would recommend buying those first, as they do obviously provide a lot of back-story to this novel.

There are in fact 3 other Arthur C. Clarke books to be reviewed soon, but I’ve grown a little bored of them for now, so I’ll review a few others first, then return to his books. Hope you don’t mind. Tough luck if it does cause you to lose sleep ;-P

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May 10 2007

2061: Odyssey Three

Category: BooksChrisM @ 12:43 am

2061: Odyssey Three – Arthur C. Clarke

After Jupiter’s conversion into a new sun, Europa starts to transform, but humankind were warned at the end of the last novel that ‘All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt No Landings There’. The USA, USSR and China are all now at peace with each other, leaving the threat of violence to inter-planetary relations.
Whilst all the events are occurring on Europa (and teraforming on Ganymede), a team of scientists, and celebrities (think of a high class line up from a Celebrity Big Brother but on a space ship) go up to to land on Halleys Comet. At least that is the original plan, but at least one passenger has an ulterior motive; and what is worse, they don’t intend to respect the warning given re. Europa!
Although this book is obviously part of the series, the style of writing seemed quite different; I was still glad I read it, but was surprised how the novel progressed.

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May 10 2007

2010: Odyssey Two

Category: BooksChrisM @ 12:31 am

2010: Odyssey Two – Arthur C. Clarke

Somewhat obviously carrying on from 2001: A Space Odyssey, this book was written almost 15 years after the original, which had seen a lot of Clarke’s visions of space travel and computing come true already. This time around, the book came first, then the film, though in the edition I read, Arthur does refer to the fact that where the book and film of 2001 split ways in terms of events and facts, 2010 was written more closely as a sequel to the film of 2001, rather than the book.
This book sees the American (especially Heywood Floyd) and Soviet forces join together, in an effort to discover just what went wrong with their previous mission, and although there are a few cultural differences, for the most part, they manage to work together, without too much suspicion on the parts of the astronauts, if not their respective governments. A 3rd party has secretly joined the melee however, and they arrive at the planet first. There appears to be some sort of tragic accident/attack with none of the crew members surviving, which only acts to spur on the USA/USSR teams to discover just what has, and maybe still is, going on.
David Bowman, a major character from the last book, returns in a less than physical sense, and as he now works for/with the alien life forces who originally planted the slabs on the moon and planet earth. He discovers basic life forms, with some hope of evolution, both below the ice of Europa, and also in the atmosphere. This isn’t covered by the film, if I remember correctly, and I was also slightly disappointed with the film’s treatment of the scene where Bowman attempts to make contact with Floyd in a more physical sense, using dust particles to conjure up a mirage like representation of the astronaut’s face.
The book goes on to describe the transformation of the planet Jupiter into a star, via the slabs exponential replication, and how the Moon Europa is allowed to survive, meaning the basic life forms under the ice have the opportunity to progress.
If you read 2001 and weren’t overly impressed, feel free to skip this book, otherwise, if you’re able to skip over little inconsistencies with the previous book, I’d read it for sure.

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May 08 2007

2001: A Space Odyssey

Category: BooksChrisM @ 6:37 pm

2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke

OK, if you’ve not heard of this book, I’m assuming you’re either very young, or have been living in a small hamlet isolated from society for the past 40 years…

Just in case you fall into either of those two categories, I’ll continue 😉 Doing a bit of research for this novel, I came across the fact that the book was written at the same time as the film, and actually published after the film. I’d just assumed the film was made due to the success of the book, so I might go and watch the film again soon, to re-appraise it.
The basic plot line is that life on earth was helped along by aliens, who leave a large slab of mysterious material, which can communicate with the monkey/humans around it. The idea of using tools or weapons is then planted in the tribe of early humans, and they can therefore achieve supremacy over the less well equipped tribes in their vicinity.
Fast forward to 1999 (which was of course in the future when this book was written), and we meet Dr Floyd. The link between the two time periods become clear, as another slab has been discovered on the moon. It defies all attempts to measure or quantify it, which obviously peaks the scientists’ interest in it. Once they have removed all the moon dirt from it, a hugely powerful radio signal is produced, possibly signifying that other life forms are waiting for humankind to get to the position of being able to travel in space.
Of course, HAL soon makes an appearance (of ‘I’m afraid I can’t let you do that Dave‘ fame) as the on board computer for a spaceship with a hidden mission.
In the same way that Isaac Asimov often makes use of this plot device, Arthur C Clarke has HAL become confused (read homicidal) due to conflicting basic operating paramaters, which has been used by Hollywood a lot since – think of RoboCop’s prime directives etc.
I won’t say much more, as I don’t want to ruin the experience for people who’ve not yet read the book, but suffice to say that I don’t view this book as over-hyped, and you should probably read it when you get a chance.

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Sep 17 2006

All Consuming

Category: Books,PersonalChrisM @ 11:43 pm

As you can see in the column on the right, I’ve signed up at You can enter the details of what you’re reading/listening to/doing/meeting.

I need to finish updating a few details, and change the widget used, so it displays previous items properly, but for now, here is the book list (roughly in the order they’ve been read since I arrived in Kazakhstan, in April) …

Jeremy Clarkson – Motorworld
Jeremy Clarkson – The World According To Clarkson
Raymond Khoury – The Last Templar

Lois McMaster Bujold – The Mountains of Mourning
Lois McMaster Bujold – Falling Free
Lois McMaster Bujold – Shards of Honour
Lois McMaster Bujold – Barrayar
Lois McMaster Bujold – The Warrior’s Apprentice
Lois McMaster Bujold – The Vor Game
Lois McMaster Bujold – Cetaganda
Lois McMaster Bujold – Ethan of Athos
Lois McMaster Bujold – Borders of Infinity
Lois McMaster Bujold – Brothers in Arms
Lois McMaster Bujold – Mirror Dance
Lois McMaster Bujold – Memory
Lois McMaster Bujold – Komarr
Lois McMaster Bujold – A Civil Campaign
Lois McMaster Bujold – Winterfair Gifts
Lois McMaster Bujold – Diplomatic Immunity
Lois McMaster Bujold – The Curse of Chalion
Lois McMaster Bujold – Paladin of Souls
Lois McMaster Bujold – The Hallowed Hunt

Richard P. Feynman – Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)

Dave Barry – Babies and Other Hazards of Sex: How to make a Tiny Person in only 9 months, with Tools You probably have around the Home
Dave Barry – Claw Your Way to the Top: How to Become the Head of a Major Corporation in Roughly a Week
Dave Barry – Dave Barry’s Bad Habits a 100% Fact-Free Book
Dave Barry – Dave Barry is not making this up
Dave Barry – Dave Barry slept here: A Sort of History of the United States
Dave Barry – Dave Barry’s greatest hits
Dave Barry – Dave Barry’s only travel guide you ll ever need
Dave Barry – guide to marriage and/or sex
Dave Barry – Homes And Other Black Holes
Dave Barry – Dave Barry’s Stay Fit and Healthy Until You’re Dead
Dave Barry – The Taming of the Screw

Neil Gaiman – American Gods
Neil Gaiman – Stardust

George Orwell – 1984
Michael Crichton – Rising Sun

Max Brooks – The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

Edwin A. Abbott – Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

Isaac Asimov – I, Robot

Ray D. Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451
Ray D. Bradbury – Quicker Than The Eye
Ray D. Bradbury – Zen in the Art of Writing

Arthur C Clarke – A Time Odyssey 1 – Time’s Eye
Arthur C Clarke – A Time Odyssey 2 – Sunstorm
Arthur C Clarke – 2001 A Space Odyssey – Odyssey 1
Arthur C Clarke – 2010 – Odyssey 2
Arthur C Clarke – 2061 – Odyssey 3
Arthur C Clarke – 3001 – The Final Odyssey – Odyssey 4
Arthur C Clarke – Rendezvous with Rama
Arthur C Clarke – The Star

James Clavell – Shogun

Phillip Kindrick Dick – A Scanner Darkly

Diana Wynne Jones – Howl’s Moving Castle

Jasper Fforde – Thursday Next 1 – The Eyre Affair
Jasper Fforde – Thursday Next 2 – Lost in a Good Look
Jasper Fforde – Thursday Next 3 – The Well of Lost Plots
Jasper Fforde – Thursday Next 4 – Something Rotten

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