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on 8 July 2009
I am a long time SF reader. I picked this gem up for a mere £1 (for the hardback version) I think i paid too much for it to be honest. The bits which are obviously Clarke (about 33% of the novel) are the dullest parts. Pohl's contribution raises the bar a little. The only really interesting parts of the novel are the brief descriptions of math tricks and problems (of which there are too few to sustain the readers interest through the turgid conservative middle class dialogue and what passes for a plot.

The plot consists of old ideas patched together which were done far better in their original forms years previously. Pohl occasionally adds a bit of gritty realism (ie torture sequences) but these when contrasted against the grand absurd theme of the grand galactics just show the novel to be even more unbelievable and ridiculous.

The super intelligent aliens (the grand galactics)come across as ill thought out and would have been better portrayed as in a comic parody ala HGTTG.

The book is a disjointed affair, the last theorem has nothing at all to do with the main plot at all. The main plot is also not worth the ink or paper used to print it on.

Overall a sad ending to Clarke's brillant career and Pohl does little better. But he has't written anything decent for 20 years either.

Heaven forbid that any new readers to Clarke & Pohl get their hands on this travesty. Please new readers to these authors please check out Clarke's "2001:A Space Odyssey" "The City & The Stars" "Rendezvous with Rama" and Pohl's "Starchild Trilogy" "Man Plus" & "Gateway" to name just a few classics. They are way above the level of this monster.

I read all of this novel and by the time i got to the end i wished i had not wasted my time and had read something more worthy. The whole thing comes over as a contractual obligation exercise. Avoid at all costs.
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on 28 January 2014
I did enjoy reading this book ,but I have many reservations . It is exactly what you might expect from two different authors writing a book without any feedback from each other . Fred Pohl was one of the best Sci-fi writers as was Arthur C Clarke .In his latter years Arthur C seems to have let others expand his ideas with less than great results .Not perhaps the best work to end their writting lives with . Never mind , there's a load of great stuff avialable from both writers . When will we get Fred Pohls' works on Kindle ?
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on 15 May 2009
When I saw this, I thought it sounded promising with its talk of Alien invasion and the World being on the brink of nuclear war.
Instead of the exciting thriller that was expected, it delivered an insipid, at times downright boring tale during which I spent the entire time waiting for some decent plot development instead of lots of pointless little side stories that amounted to nothing.
One of the most frustrating things about this book, was the so called "Alien threat" Rather than the menacing invasion promised on the back cover, it was presented as an almost comedic event and dismissed in a really abrupt and unconvincing manner.
It would also have been nice if the main character solving Fermat's Last Theorem was somehow relevant to the rest of the story, but it just seemed like a red herring.
As a big science fiction fan, over the years I have read and enjoyed many of Clarke's classic stories. Sadly this was a real disappointment.
I'm just glad this isn't the book he will be remembered for.
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on 6 August 2010
Being something of a fan of Clarke's earlier books but not having read any of his later ones, I picked this up while on holiday from a service station, and I wish I'd left it there! As others have said the back of the book makes out the story of an alien invasion, of excitement and suspense, but although it's over a month later I've STILL failed to get to the end of it.

For every page of aliens there are about 75 pages of "storyline" about a Sri Lankan "boy" and his growing up with a love of math, and of his bisexual lovelife which has no relevence at all that I can see and is a bore to wade through

The writing style is also very poor, with the continual use of characters full names (No doubt to pad the book out)

£6.99 that could have been spent on a much better book, I will be avoiding any of Pahl's other books like the plague. And for a grandmaster this last book was the worst book I believe I've ever read attributed to Clarke, I imagine he's spinning in his grave
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on 15 October 2009
Having read and loved the "Rama" books, I was immediately drawn to this, evidently one of the great Mr Clarke's final novels. The description reads like the book should be a science fiction masterpiece, split between the down to Earth goings on of a young Sri Lankan astronomy student and the inter stellar doom about to be levied onto humans by the Grand Galactics. It is not.

You are graced with barely a handful (and this is no exaggeration!) of pages dedicated to Science Fiction, the rest of the book is devoted to the somewhat mundane daily life of the student Ranjit Subramanian. Although classed as "science fiction" you would expect the life of the said student to reflect some type of realism, but no - this particular Sri Lankan runs into events and people that are so unrealistic it almost has comedy value! Some of the background characters are so stereotypical you're left searching for some irony. To prove my point and as something to use as a benchmark here, in this novel, the United Nations (UN) are a decisive and internationally feared force which carries out regime changes at the drop of a hat! And University mathematics lectures are somewhere where you learn basic primary school number tricks (eg: how to count in binary using your fingers... I somehow couldn't envision that occurring at Oxford or Cambridge).

Being a big fan of Arthur C Clarke's work, I really wanted to like this book, but just couldn't. The few pages that are devoted to the aliens are mostly towards the end, and even then there's nothing new apparent that would have you on the edge of your seat. The bulk of the book is Ranjit's diary and it's about as riveting as reading a diary about moving rocks from one end of the garden to the other.

A very, very disappointing read.
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on 25 August 2008
There is some sadness here, while the last of the three great science fiction writers from the so-called "Golden Age" has passed away. Of the Big Three (the other being Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov) Arthur C. Clarke was the more gentle writer, as such famous stories as "The Nine Billion Names of God" or "The Star" can attest to. His grand galactic and spiritual vision (obviously from the "school" of Olaf Stapledon's transhumanism) found its way in such novels as "The City and the Stars", "Childhood's End" and "2001: A Space Odyssey"; they belong to the best of science fiction of that period.

Clarke has cooperated with other writers, notably Stephen Baxter, and for this last novel, with Frederik Pohl, another well-known and respected science fiction writer.

The story of finding a contemporary solution of Fermat's Theorem (that is: with mathematics within the time-span of that mathematician), coupled with aliens knocking at our door, is written with obvious love of Sri Lanka and its people in the forefront. But, just as Asimov and Heinlein before him, he tried to twine the various strands of earlier novels and worlds, such as "Fountains of Paradise", "The City", "Childhood's End" and "2001" into this book. And, predictable, he (and/or Fred Pohl) failed to convince. The Great Galacticans, a glittering utopia hanging before our eyes, and world problems solved with the stroke of a paragraph, it is all a bit too much contrived. It is a 'feel good' book, with much empathy but not with much depth, and a rather plodding plot.

And that is sad. Was Shakespeare really the only one who got better with age? At any rate, Clarke has started his own odyssey into the unknown, and there is much written by him to be fondly remembered. But not this last theorem.
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on 18 March 2009
I had tried and waited a long time to get this book, full of anticipation of a thourghly good read from two great story tellers. How sadly and massivly disapointing. I kept doggidly ploughing on hoping the story would improve and then starting to wonder if the authors names had been mistakenly put on the wrong story. Exessivly boring, quite unbelievable and dare I say childlike in its composure. Toward the end of the book the 'story' expects us to accept such unbelievable twaddle as to make all the preceding part of the book actually look interesting, which it definitely was not. The end was so nonsensical as to be bordering on ridiculous. Possibly one of the worst stories I have ever read and sadly I consider a complete waste of time. That this has been written by two 'Masters' of story telling who have genuinely written great stories in the past would be to my mind the time to either give up writing such twaddle or return to earlier ways of thinking and re-evaluate their writing skills. Sadly a waste of their time, my time, paper and ink. Should this story be published just because of the authors high profile names then it has badly misfired. Back to the drawing board for both I think. Not reccomended and not worth the read even if the book was offered free of charge. Hugely dissapointing.
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on 29 April 2010
Picked this up in the airport and as others have already noted, the blurb on the back cover does a great job of making a mountain out of a molehill. Warning bells should have been going off when I noticed that the authors names were in larger font and took up more of the front cover than did the title. At the top was, "The final novel from the grandmaster" but this was definitely not a case of saving the best for last.

One hour in and I had a bad feeling already. Too much time was spent on building up the background to the, "Last Theorem" that consequently had nothing at all to do with the main plot anyway. Every character, especially the main one, never came close to getting me interested in them in any shape or form and as my plane crawled from London to Shanghai I had plenty of time to regret my purchase with no other reading material to hand.

Arthur C Clarke should never have put his name to this as in my opinion he has ended his great career on a very low and sorry note. Haven't been this disappointed in a book for a long, long time. Please don't read it, just remember Mr Clarke for the books he is famous for. I couldn't bring myself to give it even one star but the website would not let me give it none.
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on 27 July 2013
I was almost put off from reading this book when I read the reviews on it, but I'm glad I didn't. Having borrowed it from my local library, I found that it was a simple, easy going book. It wasn't written to be in-depth, but about the emotional impact of space travel on a Sri Lankan culture, which is then influenced by western culture itself.

The only problem I had with the novel was the description and analysis of the 'aliens'. That was a real weak point, and they deserved better names and better stories behind them. Instead, it felt as though they were uplifted from a children's book.

Character development was strong on the most part. I think if it was written in an autobiographical sense, then it would've helped other readers connect, but that's only my opinion.

The book won't make you think too much. It's a simple case of storytelling. You can read it anytime and in any situation and you won't be lost. It doesn't require too much taxing of the brain (maybe the mathematics does).

Overall, if you're looking for light reading with a focus on relaxed character development, then this is the book for you. If you are expecting deep stuff on the nature of space travel, and the impact of alien visitation on mankind, then look elsewhere.
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on 25 June 2009
Like a number of people reviewing this book I was very disapointed. I enjoyed the relationship with Clarke and Baxter and looked forward to this one although to be honest I thought the last Clarke book had already been released. This book was terrible and the last theorem story had hee haw to do with the main plot. Avoid this in order that you do not sully your brain with it and potentially ruin your opinion of an otherwise great author. I truly think that this was cobbled together from a bunch of post it notes that were perhaps left lying around Arthur C clarkes study.
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