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on 14 January 2017
I was directed to this story via the Mike Oldfield album of the same name, from which the inspiration came.
Not usually a sci-fi fan, I did, nevertheless find the story a good extrapolation of what could happen in the future.
The plot has already been outlined by others, so I'll not go into detail about that. At times, I found it hard to visualise what each character was like, as there didn't seem much depth to some of them.
Overall, a good read, the conclusion seemed a little short of what I expected.
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Plausibility and readability come as standard with Arthur C Clarke's novels. And these are two features that are far from guaranteed in the sci-fi arean.
In fact, Clarke writes SO convincingly, that you can easily believe you are reading a factual account rather that a hugely imaginative work of fiction.
With this novel there is an additional dimension.
Emotion.
Sure, it is there in his other novels, in the same way the emotion is with our every living moment. But this book is genuinely moving as it tells the tale of two cultures meeting and overlapping. It tells of love and loss, of heartache and tragedy, but without ever ceasing to be a ripping good yarn.
The pages skip by - it can be read in a few hours - but its memory will linger. And for me it is one of those few books that I will recommend to others without any reservations.
It is impossible to pick a single one of Clarke's novels as his best, but Songs of Distant Earth is guaranteed a place in any shortlist.
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on 26 February 2002
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.
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on 24 July 2014
Pretty quick read. Very enjoyable. Earth is no more and seed ships to distant star systems have settled planets with limited success. The last exodus, took advantage of energy technology discovered in the nick of time to traverse space to colonise worlds even further away; they stop off at one of the success stories. A watery world called Thalassa colonised by one of the earlier seed ships. The story tells of the interactions between star ship crew and the Lassens. Separated by centuries, they never the less, encounter each other on various and very human levels before parting. The star ship, keeps moving towards its ultimate goal, the Lassens continue to develop their culture and to understand their planet. A little bit sad at the end. It is a fairly short novel and although the characters are affectionately drawn, I didn't feel I got to know them well enough to be completely immersed in their lives or the plot. However, I enjoyed the ideas and the very plausible way they are woven onto this story, so would certainly recommend.
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on 10 August 2013
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.

Theo.
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on 11 September 2000
Mankind has been fleeing the solar system for centuries but without the benefit of faster-than-light travel. Colonising the stars by launching embryos and genes stored in computers to other worlds in robot seed-ships; the world has resigned itself to remaining on Earth and dying with their star. But, at the eleventh hour a new propulsion system is invented that can send humans to the stars. This book tells the story of a ship of Earth-born humans arriving at a seeded colony.
One of the things I loved about this book is that the science is so believable and well explained but without getting technical - there is just enough detail but never too much. The same could be said about the characterisation which builds right up until the final moving pages which end in a way that you'll never forget. I strongly recommend this book - in a recent interview Arthur C Clarke said it was his personal favorite !
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on 20 May 2004
I am not a lover of Science Fiction, but this I really liked. It's well-written and easy to read as well as being not to long to become tedious or boring. I preferred it some much more than 2001, which I had previously read. I will now go on to read some of Arthur's other books. I give it 4 stars and not 5 simply because I reserve 5 for the absolute classics.
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on 22 March 2005
I read this book after hearing Mike Oldfield's CD of the same title - his musical interpretation of the book. Much as I enjoyed the music, it is the tone of the book that still haunts me years later. This story is just so moving, not something I expect from a science fiction story. Highly recommended - one that you will want to return to over the years.
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on 20 October 2004
Quite simply, this is one of the best small sci-fi novels I've ever read. I hate to quote a cliche, but I simply couldn't put it down. The characters are so entirely believable that it's, in my opinion, extremely easy to become sympathetic with them. In fact, I almost shed a tear whilst reading the last chapter! Clarke has also only used technology that he feels will likely exist in the distant future which he is portraying, giving the story even more believability. 5/5 all the way! Superb!
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on 2 November 2012
Clarke has been perhaps best known for the "epics" of "2001", "Childhood's End" and "Rendezous with Rama", but he went through a very reflective period of balancing hard-core sci-fi with the intricacies of human relationships that resulted in his two most charming novels: "Imperial Earth" and this, "Songs". Admittedly, "Songs" had had a very long gestation period, reflecting Clarke's own escape from muddy wartime Minehead to Ceylon/Taprobane/Sri Lanka/Thalassa. In this novel, as in "Imperial Earth", the main (er... )thrust of the novel is an eternal triangle between a woman and two men, who find themselves torn between the worlds of science and love. The story was deliberately grounded in "hard" science, that is NO Warp-Drives, so the earthmen who arrive on the planet Thalassa have only escaped the destruction of Earth (by a spotty and cantankerous Sun!) by long-term hibernation. The humans already occupying Thalassa had been sent out as frozen embryos on a "seedship" hundreds of years before. The impact of one culture upon the other drives the novel along with the friction between a driven crew of hardcore astronauts facing the docile spirit of a people on a semi-paradisical island adding to the spice. Clarke indulges himself in some of his favourite themes of pleasure and duty, exploration for its own sake and the odd sexual shenanigan, but these are woven into a seamless tapestry that will please even people who HATE science fiction. Why it has never wound up as a film is beyond me, but, along with Julian May's "Pliocene Quartet", and "Milieu Trilogy", this is well overdue. Read for instruction, read for sheer pleasure. But READ, anyway!
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