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Mission Of Gravity: Mesklinite Book 1 (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 13 Oct 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (13 Oct. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575077085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575077089
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 694,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

"Hard" SF based on real physics made huge demands on 1950's writers with no desktop computers. Perfectionists like Hal Clement did all their calculations of gravity, orbits and centrifugal forces using just a slide rule and book of log tables. Clement also worked hard to conceal this laborious effort: in Mission of Gravity (1953) there are no equations, but simply the convincing reality of the extraordinary planet Mesklin.

Mesklin is unusually massive and spins particularly fast: its "day" lasts not 24 hours but 18 minutes. The huge mass means an unthinkable gravity of 700 times Earth's, but only at the poles. Where the spin has most counter-effect, at the equator, the overall pull is a mere three times the earth's gravity. Humans can walk there, on crutches, to bargain with the centipede-like, hydrogen-breathing Mesklinites for the recovery of an expensive research probe that's been lost near the unreachable south pole.

It's Barlennan of Mesklin, captain of the native ship Bree, who steals the show. He's bright, brave, and experienced in sailing his world's liquid-methane seas. The immense journey to recover Earth's stranded treasure confronts Barlennan's crew with unexpected but ingeniously logical obstacles and menaces. Constantly in touch with humans by radio link, Barlennan is both grateful for the scientific insights these visitors provide and suspicious about what--as a mere "primitive"--he's carefully not being told. As journey's end approaches, Barlennan makes some quiet plans of his own... Mission of Gravity is an acknowledged classic of old-fashioned SF world-building. --David Langford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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One of the most important and best loved novels in the genre

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Shepherd on 20 April 2003
Format: Paperback
First published in 1953, this book was the progenitor of the modern 'hard' SF sub-genre. Using only the known science of the day, it imagined a world so wildly different from our everyday experience that it dazzles the mind, showing just how wild the universe really can be.

The world is Mesklin, a very large planet that rotates on its axis in just eighteen minutes, leading to gravitational forces of 700 gravities at the poles, and just 3 gees at the equator. But this is just the first of the items that make the world unique: its average temperature is a toasty -160 degrees Celsius; a methane/ammonia atmospheric composition that at these temperatures act much like water on Earth - phasing between solid, liquid, and gaseous forms; a wildly ecliptic orbit and planetary axial tilt that has strange consequences for the weather. Now add an intelligent native life form that is fifteen inches long and just three inches tall, looking very much like an overgrown millipede with pinchers, an Earth probe stranded at one of the poles that Terran scientists would very much like to retrieve for the data it contains about high gravity environments, and you have the ingredients for a great scientific adventure story.

Clement, a high school science teacher for much of his life, writes very much in the mold of a much earlier SF writer, Jules Verne. As such, the emphasis is on the science, the puzzles and oddities extreme conditions can present, rather than on character or thematic messages. Every detail of this world was very carefully worked out, right down to why the native inhabitants would 'see' their world as a hollow flattened bowl, complete with accurate maps, and would reject almost out of hand the idea that the surface they could see was really the outside of a sphere.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 22 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a well-written and clever story. Clement has worked hard at making the bizarre world of Mesklin plausible, and his representation of life on an ultra-high gravity world is fascinating. He describes the planet's harsh beauty and its fierce extremes of climate with an atmospheric prose style that makes you feel as though you're there with the Mesklenites.
The only problem with the novel is that despite the publisher's blurb about Clement's convincing depiction of a non-human consciousness, the Mesklenites are not very alien. They may be tiny caterpillar-like creatures that live on a world with 800 G gravity, but they think and talk like 1950s Americans. Clement's undoubted brilliance at atmosphere and scientific imagining does not make him able to create 3-dimensional characters or emotional depth.
Nonetheless this is a worthwhile and engrossing story, and it certainly deserves its re-release under the 'Classic SF' umbrella.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Johnny London on 1 Jan. 2009
Format: Paperback
As the books description says, this is a description of a mission by humans on a hostile alien world. Actually, humans are peripheral in the story. The heros are actually aliens similar to caterpillars.
It is a great book because it describes the alien world so believably - you really get drawn in. The book moves along briskly, and even though some heavy science (gravity) is thrown in, this didn't put me off (I don't like too much hard science in my SF).
Well worth reading if you are a fan of SF books, and a good addition to the SF masterworks series.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Martin on 10 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
I quite liked this book... I found that I cared about the characters. We have some alien creatures on their own world being visited by Human researchers... the Humans want access to the logs of ship that is on the ground somewhere on the planet. And they make contact with the captain of some kind of pirate or trading ship... the catch... well, the gravity of this planet is way too much for Humankind to endure, so they have to cajole and 'trade' with the aliens to traverse great distances to get to this stranded ship and its precious logs. Along the way, these creatures - who are only ever used to travelling small amounts above ground (even the smallest fall can kill you on this planet with such high gravity) have many challenges - cliffs for one - to surmount and you realise you actually like the plucky bunch and you know they get what they deserve in the end... enjoyed it.
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Format: Paperback
This is a book about a scientific concept, it's not particularly trying to tell a story, make a point, or make you think about issues. It's trying to describe a world that's completely foreign to us in a fictional way. It's a fun read and a very interesting concept, but it's not a great literary work. I heartily recommend it and enjoyed it a great deal more than the other 'better' books. I mean it has foot long caterpillars as it's main characters for crying out loud, how could you not love it!?
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