Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke

AdulthoodBlotting out the light from the stars they have linked so effortlessly, the silent ships hang suspended over the great cities of Earth…

Armed with a staggering power and an infinite wisdom the invaders from outer space shock Earth into submission – but what is their purpose?

To mention any more of the story would be to give away key plot points and like film trailers, books are sadly not immune from giving things away before you even get to the main feature.  Even my 1956 Pan edition gave some important things away but the newer copies are even worse. It’s a risky business this book buying.

I love this cover, it’s wonderfully dramatic and of its time and being one of those annoying fault picking people I can’t help but imagine the cost of the repair bill from the sonic boom that that ship appears to be causing.

There is something quaint about this book, with a familiar Cold War beginning and then the imagined future in which people are starting to watch three hours of TV a day!  Clarke may be celebrated for preempting technological advances and such but he was pretty up on the social aspect as well. It doesn’t feel too archaic though, it’s a pleasant jaunt, a B-movie in a book or B-lit as I term it.

Once into the book, the familiar Clarke theme of our place in the universe, our journey through the stars and time if you will is explored.  The scale of the notion is impressive, for most of the book these bigger scale concepts are largely played down in favour of the more human side of things, unlike the Rama series and the Odyssey books where the big ideas were the major focus.  This difference in focussing makes for a more subtle approach to the stories of our civilisation and its adaptation to the new and the abstract.

Continue reading “Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke”

Spacial Awareness

 

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The encapsulating glow of the forever firmament
Our awe at looking deep into the universe’s soul
The playground of distilled wonder
Comprehension can only be guessed at.
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In these heady times of scientific journeys
\the vastness in the artistry of imagination, compromised
Conservative thoughts have no place here
Divine rules shape the ancient.
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Literature and film accompany us in our fantasies
Far flung, an Odyssey in the deep of space
Searching for answers to the celestial questions
Far from home.
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Earth is our spaceship
and we reside, tenuously clinging
feeling out our place in the Grand Scheme of this macrocosm
We, so small, yet vast and endless in our dreams…

The Mole, The Astronaut and the Award(robe)

Liebster-award-ribbonAnna of the wonderfully written Ink Stains on a Reader’s blog nominated me for an award, which is the sort of thing that I don’t usually go in for these days but nonetheless thought it would be fun to answer the questions and pretend I am some sort of celebrity, which I am not…even in my own mind:

Name a piece of literature you consider the best you’ve read so far?  What an unfair first question!  I think Catch 22 is the perfect novel in terms of pacing but as to best…I don’t know Márquez, Eco, Calvino, Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky…the field of authors is tough so I will go a bit left field and plump for A Pound of Paper by John Baxter, in which he talks of his love for books, his past and obsessions.  I need to review that one sometime…it just reaffirms why so many people have a love for books.

What are the characteristics of your dream home library?   Each room except the bathroom and kitchen will be crammed full of books, haphazard books everywhere.  There will also be comic books and magazines, old papers and pamphlets and whatever else I can hoard.  There won’t be much in the way of anything else, a few tables and desk, comfy chairs and a couple of beds as well as the other necessities.  It will be a place that amazes people with its sheer number of books but will also feel comfortable and eccentric, a place you don’t want to leave regardless of whether you love books or not.  And it will have one of those ladders that you can roll around the shelves because that’s a must.

What are your favorite places for buying books?  Any second-hand book shops really, with their musty smell and hidden treasures…the more obscure the better.  If it has to be full price books, I want a place that has a diverse choice, not the usual best sellers but unexpected stuff that catches the eye and heart.

Should philosophy be taught from elementary school? Yes, I think that education needs to get back to letting children think for themselves and question…critical thinking should be standard on every curriculum, especially in this culture of dumbing down.

What does it mean to be wise? / What is wisdom?  To be wise would be to be logical but to understand that life is about more, about emotion, it is a balance, experience, perception…wisdom is an educated guess as nobody on Earth really has a clue what’s going on.
Continue reading “The Mole, The Astronaut and the Award(robe)”

Rendezvous with Rama

600full-rendezvous-with-rama-coverAt first, only a few things are known about the celestial object that astronomers dub Rama. It is huge, weighing more than ten trillion tons. And it is hurtling through the solar system at an inconceivable speed. Then a space probe confirms the unthinkable: Rama is no natural object. It is, incredibly, an interstellar spacecraft. Space explorers and planet-bound scientists alike prepare for mankind’s first encounter with alien intelligence. It will kindle their wildest dreams… and fan their darkest fears. For no one knows who the Ramans are or why they have come. And now the moment of rendezvous awaits — just behind a Raman airlock door.

There is something about the unknown that draws us, intoxicates us and keeps us tantalised, Rendezvous with Rama is just such a book.  Giving us a setting of astronomical proportions that sticks in the mind years after the tome has been returned to the shelves from whence it came.

There is a solid build up and background to the story,  exploring the state of the Earth in political and social terms, the exploration of what alien contact could mean for science and religion which teases the reader with possible answers to such a provocative riddle.  I rather felt it had a certain reminiscent feel to the exploration novels of old like Allan Quatermain, The lost World etc.

There is a tendency with sci-fi for the characters to sometimes be a little two-dimensional as is the case here.  Whilst this would usually bother me, in this instance it doesn’t, because the characters are really only tools to allow us to view the edifice of the ship that is Rama itself.

I can forgive the characters being two-dimensional because they are clearly secondary here,  the faint whiff of almost soap opera-ish leanings don’t diminish from the book, in fact the clichés work in its favour. Those plot points which seem a little silly in the face of the big object flying near Earth make a nice contrast and beg the question how much are life’s worries really worth in the face of such a behemoth of a discovery on humanity’s doorstep. Continue reading “Rendezvous with Rama”

My Life in Books Part Two

76464Looking back at part one, I realise I forgot to regale you with the ‘hilarious’ time I had chicken pox and read all three volumes of Simon Schama’s A History of Britain in a two-week frenzy. Bizarrely this culminated in having weird dreams about King James II and people pushing me off ladders because I couldn’t rule both England and Scotland at the same time.  This lasted for straight nights.

Throughout all of my tumultuous new-found enthusiasm for any and all books, I had retained my love of Football, most notably in a statistical side of things keeping up with such numerical wonders as The non League Directory, Rothmans Football Yearbook and The European Football yearbook as well as enjoying various great club and personality autobiographies, etc, with such gems as Football Against the Enemy, Kicking in the Wind, Left Foot Forward and Bobby Robson: Farewell but not Goodbye to name but a few.

Some of the most memorable books of this particular phase of life were read at nights, I lived on a quiet street and with trusty touch lamp and low-wattage bulb on.  The scene was set for complete absorption in various genres with the most memorable stories; The Stand, Desperation and The Woman in Black, 2001 and 2010: The Second Odyssey, The Dark Tower series, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, The Wind in the Willows, Endymion Spring, The Lost World, Rendezvous With Rama, The Chronicles of Narnia,The Kraken Wakes and possibly the book with the most disappointing spoiler in the blurb, the Midwich Cuckoos.

It was glorious to read at nights, way back when my job at the time didn’t demand I be up at 6AM, and so the hours of reading when the street outside were deserted allowed me another layer to my self enforced isolation.  A great many epic books were devoured and dreamed about within this era and I really did treasure the time I had by myself in bed. Continue reading “My Life in Books Part Two”

Doctor Who – The Doctor’s Wife

Here we finally are in my odyssey through time and a bit of space to the current incumbent to call himself the Doctor.  This is my seventh post today, so I appreciate you guys for putting up with me all over your news feed thingys and email accounts and also and most importantly for reading, but I digress:  Matt Smith, the latest incarnation is a great actor but I didn’t really gel with his Doctor for a  good while, perhaps it was the script writing or maybe I was just in a constant irritable mood but the high points from his Doctor came in fits and starts I thought.

He had some cracking episodes though, don’t get me wrong: Vincent and the Doctor, The Snowmen and The Curse of the Black Spot were my particular favourites but this one gets the metaphorical (and physical, just so you know) nod as it involves the longest serving companion and featured in a new guise to boot.

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Neil Gaiman – the writer of the magnificent Sandman series as well as stuff I haven’t read such as Stardust, Neverwhere, Coraline and many others – was the creator of this particular adventure and he chooses to deal with an often overlooked relationship hidden in plain sight but rarely addressed. Continue reading “Doctor Who – The Doctor’s Wife”

Only Whoman

The biggest Doctor Who fan I know is my cousin Cory, so what better subject to write upon for the penultimate post of my mammoth Whoxtraveganza than to showcase one of the people who keep the show alive and on form.  Here’s some of the many awesome photos he has supplied me with and also his words…

1392982_10152111674325555_665541172_nFor me, collecting Doctor Who merchandise is just an extension of watching the show. I have an obsessive personality, if I like something, I REALLY like it. It’s a great hobby, because even though there are bound to be disappointments along the way, when rare items slip through your fingers, it’s all part of the thrill of the chase!

1472131_10152111674320555_1168186533_nIt’s also great fun meeting the stars of the show, and even the ones I can’t get round to meeting, I write to…helping me build up an impressive autograph collection! Continue reading “Only Whoman”

Last of the Gaderene – Mark Gatiss

n52001Post Five in my Who Day extravaganza, I have decided to bill it is somewhat unsurprisingly a book.  I assure you normal service of non Who posts shall be resumed shortly.

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The aerodrome in Culverton has new owners, and they promise an era of prosperity for the idyllic village. But former Spitfire pilot Alex Whistler is suspicious – when black-shirted troops appear on the streets, he contacts his old friend Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart at U.N.I.T. The Third Doctor is sent to investigate – and soon uncovers a sinister plot to colonise the Earth. The Gaderene are on their way.

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Shamelessly piggy backing on topical news stories, if a bit belatedly, as this was tucked away in my drafts.  I decided to review something old and new, that is also blue and just to complete the traditional saying I borrowed a pen earlier.

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Mark Gatiss is the writer of such well crafted episodes as The Crimson Horror, The Unquiet Dead and Night Terrors amongst others, as well as various other Doctor Who bits and bobs including other Who books. This story is part of a set of fiftieth anniversary book set and it’s easy to see why this one was chosen above some other strong contenders for the third Doctor pick.

222 Continue reading “Last of the Gaderene – Mark Gatiss”

doctor Who – Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead

SilenceInTheLibrarySo for my fourth Who post of the day,  I had to pick this two parter featuring the tenth Doctor and probably most popular on an equal par with Tom Baker’s Doctor.  I had to pick this as it contains a library and this library is a whole planet, so how could I resist?

The Doctor and Donna land in the middle of the biggest library in the Universe one that covers an entire planet. Yet it also houses a sinister set of foes that quickly send shivers up the spine, and that prove it’s wise to, as advised, “count the shadows”.  Yet with the mysterious character of River Song, the equally intriguing Dr Moon and a small girl’s nightmares to consider, there’s plenty to unravel.

There is another reason for picking this episode and that is because it’s rare for the Doctor to be put off kilter for very long but when he encounters River Song a person (with spoilers) from his future, things are always going to take an interesting and dramatic turn and indeed story arc. Continue reading “doctor Who – Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”

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