Here is another superb novel in the classic Clarke style; combining solid science with prophetic vision. Clarke wrote the first version as a short story in 1957, 6 months before the launch of Sputnik I! 12 years were to pass before scientists would discuss for the first time the idea of the interstellar drive mentioned here! Ten more years and further scientific papers followed. Thus by 1985, when this novel was written, the original idea was showing promise already, unlike many contemporary space operas featuring fanciful hyperspace drives.
This then is no fantasy. It is hard sci-fi, extrapolating current knowledge and not violating known boundaries. Arthur C. Clarke is reassuringly solid with his science, inspiringly bold with his vision, thrillingly readable with his portrayal of passion and human interactions.
The vision here is not quite as far-reaching as in the Rama stories, but in some ways even more fascinating because of its greater realism. The immediate impact is not as stunning as in 'The Trigger', but the scope is so much grander. The short story version can be found in 'The Sentinel', which is a superb and memorable collection.
The story follows from the end of Earth and the solar system in AD 3620, when the Sun goes supernova. By then some of the interstellar spaceships launched 1200 years ago have fulfilled their mission of establishing human colonies beyond the reach of the exploding sun. Thalassa is one such.
Thalassians are gentle people, possessing technology but not slaves to it. Their world consists of three small islands. Oceans cover the rest of their planet. Theirs is a society free of guilt, violence and jealousy. Theirs is a lifestyle full of passion and zest for life, full of calmness and poise, free of selfish corruption or hateful bigotry. The worst disaster to strike them in their 700 years of history was the eruption of Krakan, the local volcano.
Mirissa, her lover Brant and brother Kumar were out fishing, when "the simple, carefree world they had known all their young lives came abruptly to an end." Starship Magellan had arrived after its 300 yearlong journey, started as the Earth was about to be vaporised. Its Quantum drive lit up Thalassa's sky, brighter than any comet could. Moses Kaldor, worthy ambassador, meets the Thalassans to negotiate a brief stay to enable the Magellan reach her destination; a further 50 light years and 300 earth years away. Of the 161 crew awakened from deep interstellar sleep, many form relationships with Thalassans. Some see no point in parting from their new love, and leaving this ideal world for an uncertain one that they may never reach. One such is Lieutenant Owen Fletcher, entrusted with assembling the shield that will protect Magellan from deadly interstellar dust. His plan is to abort the mission, by persuasion if possible, sabotage if necessary.
Will he succeed? Will Captain Bey be able to avoid mutiny? Will the million survivors from Earth overwhelm the 560 Thalassans, when they are awakened from their deep slumber?
Read this fascinating tale and find out.