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Black Cloud Hardcover – 1 Dec 1960

3.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 251 pages
  • Publisher: William Heinemann Ltd; 1st New Windmill Edition edition (Dec. 1960)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0434349194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434349197
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,242,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
Sir Fred's most successful fiction is full of meaningful details. So it is only absurd to publish the abridged version. It cannot be justified. For example, Sir Fred's most important message: 'Prediction only counts in science' is missing here. It seems the great prophet has not been fully accepted in his homeland.
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Format: Paperback
Fred Hoyle worked as one of Cambridge's most eminent astronomers for many years and sadly died recently. He described this little book as a frolic, but it is frighteningly believable. Hoyle has worked in many of the scientific institutions he portrays, and therefore they too are very real.

This is the story of a black cloud which approaches the earth, slowly enveloping it, and causing massive disruption to its weather. According to physics, the cloud should not be behaving in this way, and a small band of scientists (including one who is, I suspect, modelled on Hoyle himself!) guess that some kind of intelligence is driving it. The book climaxes with their attempts to communicate with it, and the difficulties involved (unlike Star Trek, immediate understanding is not assumed...).

I bought this book for 80p from a charity shop in Cambridge and I shall not be selling it. As Hoyle himself says in his preface 'there is very little here that could not conceivably happen'. Perhaps I will need it for reference...
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Format: Paperback
Fred Hoyle was famed for his unorthodox views on panspermia and the steady-state universe (as opposed to terrestrial evolution and the big bang theory) as well as his brilliant astronomy. Both beliefs are exercised in this book when the interstellar cloud impinging on the solar system is found to be alive and intelligent (as revealed in the "spoilers" of other reviews - this aspect is reminiscent of Olaf Stapleton's better "Star Maker"). Surprising elitist but anarchic political views are also expressed through the self-seeking hero-scientists who are portrayed as "decent chaps" manipulating nations' governments; a cynical British promotion of Plato's despotic Republic.

The book is very readable - the plot rolls along, keeping the reader intrigued. I appreciated the occasional mathematical parts (though they're sometimes obvious and ridiculous to imagine scientists discussing). I found the understated descriptions of the cataclysmic events' effects effective - though not as strong as Greg Egan's "Diaspora". The stereotyped characterisation, even beyond the undifferentiated male boffins, was the weakest part. But this is genuine "hard" science-fiction - defined as story-telling through the exposition of science. It also has interesting relevance to global warming, and a refreshingly down-beat climax.
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