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This review is from: The Songs of Distant Earth (Paperback)
Arthur C. Clarke is a pure "hard" science fiction writer. Paradoxically, this means that his greatest strength is also his greatest weakness. He doesn't have much interest in his characters, the relationships between them, or their development as human beings. Clarke's stories are all about the worlds that these characters inhabit. In the same way that a more conventional writer might use landscape as a prop to tell a story about character, Clarke uses characters as props to tell a story about landscape.
And make no mistake: although this is one of his later tales, Songs of Distant Earth is classic Clarke.
In this world, the Earth was long ago destroyed when its sun went nova. However, Earth's scientists had centuries of warning before this occurred, and spent most of those centuries sending out "seed ships" to other worlds. These ships contained no living crew, but did contain both the genetic material and the rearing and educational technology to spawn new human colonies on far flung planets. Despite all this, in the final years before Earth was destroyed, human civilization did manage to send out a ship with actual living colonists.
This story is all about what happens when that ship stops at a planet that was long ago seeded with human life by one of those seed ships. As you might expect of Clarke, everything is based on real, established science. Among other things this means that all space flight is sub-light. This obviously has implications for the time scale on which certain events occur.
The main thing I would stress to anyone deciding whether to read this book is that this is a work of serious scientific speculation. It's about creating a realistic, plausible future, and exploring the kind of world that has been generated in some depth.
I enjoy a good laser battle as much as the next sci-fi fan. But you need to know going in that that is absolutely not what this book is about.