Before Carl Sagan (whom, one learns, was himself turned on to science through the words of Sir Arthur), Arthur C. Clarke, in addition to being one of the world's leading and best science fiction writers, was perhaps the most important, and most widely read, science writers of the 20th century. He published several books that are classics in the field of astronomy and physics, such as Interplanetary Flight (the volume that turned on Sagan), The Exploration of Space (the first English language boook to lay out the basic principles, and Clarke's first successful publication), The Promise of Space, Voices From The Sky, Profiles of The Future, and many, many others. Unfortunately, due to the somewhat ephermal nature of these works - as opposed to his science fiction - most of them have been out of print for many years. This is a shame, as Clarke's writing brilliance, smooth of prose, elegant wit, and wry sense of humor come through just as clearly in his non-fiction as in his fiction. He has that great talent of explaining difficult concepts in simple fashion, through analogy, metaphor, and other practible devices, while still remaining informative and literate, and without resorting to condescending. Thankfully, this book has solved much of our problems. Many of Sir Arthur's best and most invigorating essays, covering a nearly 60-year period, are reproduced here, in permanent form - and what a beautiful volume it is, too. A lot of the writing focuses on scientific topics, yes - particularly astronomy and physics - but a good deal of the book deals not with science, but with a variety of other subjects. These include Clarke's numerous postings to the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Royal Astronomical Society, and various magazines; personal reminisces (including several documentary-style writings on his scuba diving adventures - unlike many reviewers, who have commented that these essays seemed boring to them, I found them quite a good and fun read, and they led me to decide to go back and read some of Clarke's entire books on this subject, long ignored by me for this same oversight); forwards to books by other people; reviews (it is interesting to see how Clarke views certain classic science fiction movies and books, as well as his fellow science fiction authors and scientific colleagues - many of whom are mentioned, and recounted in loving detail (the book includes tributes to Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Stanley Kubrick, Willy Ley, Jack Williamson, Robert Bloch, among others... in addition to many mentions of other such notables as Ray Bradbury, Stephen Hawking, Werner van Braun, and many others) speeches, television appearances, etc. Most all of these are informative, many of them entertaining, and all of them readable. Better selections could perhaps have been made, it is true: I would rather have seen more of his incredible 1960's essays from Voices From The Sky and Profiles of The Future (several of which, for instance, describe a future computer network - the internet - before Clarke could possibly have known...) in place of some of the earliest essays in this book, which mostly consist of Clarke's postings to the Journal, and are thus rather vengeful and out of character attacks on various peoples. Still, one cannot go wrong with this book. Of particular interest to ACC fans (who will already have much - though by no means all - of this material, it also includes a lot of autobiographical information on Clarke - and background on the essays - in the form of introductions the the various sections, quite a few pictures of the man (there's an insert in the middle of the book), afterwards, and an extensive About The Author section. In the final analysis, I would reccommend unceasingly this book to anyone who is into Clarke's factual writing, or science writing in general, as well as to anybody who loves his fiction and would like to try some of his non-fiction out. This is a good - though perhaps not the best (I would still reccommend Profiles of The Future as the best starting point for ACC's non-fiction works) - place to start, and a nice companion volume to his recently released collection of short fiction, The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke. It's a fine place to start for his non-fiction in general. However, don't take it as the final word on his science writing, as it doesn't focus specifically on that, and many of his best science articles were left out of this book. If you enjoy this book, and you want to read more of his scientifically oriented stuff, I unceasingly reccommend Profiles of The Future (recently re-published in a beautiful, lavish new updated volume) and The Promise of Space (if you can find it - an out of print masterpiece)... and perhaps Ascent To Orbit: A Scientific Autobiography if you want something a bit more technical.
This books comes highly reccommended from me to all carbon-based bipeds.