?

Log in

No account? Create an account
~生まれた町で夢見てきた...~
"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke 
29th-Mar-2006 03:26 pm
Winter
Random thought: Why isn't there much in the way of great sci-fi coming out from American writers these days?

Clarke, Arthur C. 2001: A Space Odyssey. 1968. New York: Roc, 1993.
Summary: Monoliths conceived by an alien race have been driving human evolution, and now that humanity has discovered a monolith on the moon, they are ready to take the next step. David Bowman, after the depredations of the insane computer HAL, is the last survivor on a mission to Saturn, and he discovers another monolith on one of that planet's moons--which whisks him away to a double star where he is remade into a creature more than human.
Comments: A story immortalized by the Kubrick film, but the original novel is at once more accessible and more entertaining a journey narrative. I'm not sure if the American edition normalizes the spelling and punctuation, but Clarke is very good at downplaying his Britishness. Besides a few of the character names, such as Poole, it might as well be written by an American writer--it's told from an American perspective. Ironic that, given the way things are going now, by the time, if ever, that we achieve intersteller travel, NASA will undoubtedly be ancient history. I was delighted to note while reading it how well it has aged; the technology, while, as is usual for sci-fi novels, doesn't match today's reality quite yet, reads in a totally frank, believable fashion. The science buff in me was delighted. (About the only thing worth updating would be interactive computer screens for the ubiquitous TVs.) Too bad that the premise is correspondingly less believable and outright weird. Variations of this sort of the Alien Astronauts Theory of Evolution, when advanced seriously, leave me wondering what illegal substance the theorist was ingesting. Not to mention that the whole man-ape struggle for survival struck me as distinctly patriarchal. Still, Clarke's creation HAL is not to be missed--it's a classic meditation on the implications of AI.
Notes: trade paperback, 10th printing
Rating: 7/10 - Lots of fun to read in spite of some serious believability issues.
Comments 
29th-Mar-2006 09:33 pm (UTC)
NASA will undoubtedly be ancient history

NASA is planning a Moon shot, just like when this book was written >_< They're pretty much hopeless at this point...

So the book is at least more exciting than the movie, which droned on forever and only had one memorable character (HAL)?
29th-Mar-2006 09:49 pm (UTC)
NASA is planning a Moon shot, just like when this book was written

"Moon shot"? What's that? *bleeds ignorance everywhere*

So the book is at least more exciting than the movie, which droned on forever and only had one memorable character (HAL)?

I wouldn't necessarily say that it was "more exciting" (though being more exciting than the film isn't a hard feat to accomplish in general) as much as "more explanatory." There is no question, as there is in the film, to what in the heck is going on.
29th-Mar-2006 09:57 pm (UTC)
They’re talking about doing just what they did with the Apollo missions, launching a big rocket and landing a few people on the moon.. I’m not sure what the point of it is ^^

29th-Mar-2006 10:07 pm (UTC)
Probably 'cause China just did it, and they're feeling upstaged. Shall we place bets on whether or not it'll ever happen? :P
29th-Mar-2006 10:19 pm (UTC)
I think Japan is planning one too, and a moon base ^_^ Well NASA still has one of their old rockets in the museum, they could just drag that out and save some money...
30th-Mar-2006 01:22 am (UTC) - American SF
Random thought: Why isn't there much in the way of great sci-fi coming out from American writers these days?

Most of the great SF these days does seem to come from Britain - people like Iain M. Banks and Alastair Reynolds. Or even Australia (hooray) - Greg Egan and Sean McMullen both being quite interesting.

In the US there's too much Hard SF which is not only tedious but also often tends to be alarmingly right-wing. Or military SF, which is even worse. But there's still Bruce Sterling and William Gibson, so all is not lost.
30th-Mar-2006 01:26 am (UTC) - Re: American SF
Most of the great SF these days does seem to come from Britain

But WHY, I wonder. Is there some publisher preference going on, with American publishers less willing to take on untried sci-fi than fantasy?

I can't believe it's a purely cultural reason--the world is flat, these days, as Friedman says, and we're pretty much all watching the same movies and reading the same books in the English-speaking world.

William Gibson, so all is not lost.

Who, if you believe Pattern Recognition, believes the sci-fi genre is not obsolete. >_< (Sounded like the sour grapes of a middle-aged man complaining about how the world's going too fast for him these days to me, though.)
30th-Mar-2006 01:26 am (UTC) - Re: American SF
Who, if you believe Pattern Recognition, believes the sci-fi genre is not obsolete. >_<

NOW obsolete, rather. >_< Not a good typing day...
30th-Mar-2006 01:50 am (UTC) - Re: American SF
He may have a point. After all the Space Age is now in the past. The Space Age is a very dated, 1950s concept. Does anyone seriously believe we'll ever reach the stars? Does anyone care?

If science fiction has a future it probably lies in abandoning silliness like interstellar travel and spaceships and all that Star Trek nonsense.
30th-Mar-2006 02:50 am (UTC) - Re: American SF
Since when did science fiction = space travel? Science has even MORE impact on our lives than ever, and to argue, as Gibson does, that technology is simply advancing too fast to predict any conceivable future as a writer just seems, well, incredibly stupid and old foggie-ish to me.

Genetic engineering, the definition of reality vs. virtual reality, surveillance, etc. are all classic sci-fi themes as relevant today as they were 50 years ago...
30th-Mar-2006 03:02 am (UTC) - Re: American SF
Since when did science fiction = space travel?

It doesn't for me. But for mos people I think it does.
30th-Mar-2006 03:04 am (UTC) - Re: American SF
I guess because science fiction has so conspicuously faied to perdict the future. Mobile phones, automatic teller machines, the internet - virtually all science fiction writers failed to predict these things. They predicted flying cars instead!

You could argue that xcience fiction has always been about the present rather than the future.
30th-Mar-2006 03:11 am (UTC) - Re: American SF
But for mos people I think it does.

Hmm. Might be generational, too. Star Trek is NOT the first thing I'd come up with if I were asked to offer up examples of sci-fi.

Mobile phones, automatic teller machines, the internet - virtually all science fiction writers failed to predict these things.

The key to so much of of "fantasy" technology that I see is true voice recognition. When some scientist figures that out (and they're trying), get ready... >_< A lot of sci-fi will suddenly become very real.

Much of the minor technology that appeared in the Star Trek series has met reality--cellphones, PDAs, touch screens, videophones, ENORMOUS databases...it's just that the reality is always less glamorous than the fantasy. :P
30th-Mar-2006 03:12 am (UTC) - Re: American SF
As for what's gone wrong with American SF, I really don't know. It could be partly because the Hard Sf writers are following a tradition in SF tht puts science and technology first and ignores people. So much Amerian SF suffers from an inability of the author to deal convincingly with people. I supopose iot goes back to Heinlein *shudder*, and his embarrassing efforts at chacterisation. British SF seems more interested in people. There's also a tradition in American SF of terrible writing. Think of Heinlein, think of Niven, think of Brin. And weep. British SF is more literary - their SF writers can actually write! Gibson can write, but he's Canadian. I'm trying to think of an American SF author who writes well...
1st-Apr-2006 01:24 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
This page was loaded May 21st 2018, 10:51 am GMT.