Top positive review
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The stars my destination...
on 29 May 2015
Seeing how I can’t even drive through Leicestershire on the M1without calling into the Donnington Park services, the crew of the starship Magellan – two centuries into a five-hundred year flight from a destroyed Earth – have my sympathies for stopping off at the colonised planet Thalassa to have a pee, stretch their legs and pick up some comics to distract the kids.
The Songs of Distant Earth (1986), being a Later Clarke, is not so long on plot as it is on ideas – though since he was no mere fictioneer they’re beautifully-observed ideas, naturally. The final days of Earth itself are sketched with that awesomely authoritative retrospection of his, throwing out speculation with the casual confidence of it simply coming to pass, expressing a general disappointment in the follies of man that’s all the more affecting for not being dogmatically hammered in like he’s reading the riot act to the entire human race. And while the overall focus may be a little off, Clarke writes some of the finest single sentences I’ve ever read – the final line of chapter 22 being a perfect case in point.
He develops and resolves most of his strands in his usual quiet way – not for him the grand scale callithump of space battles, angry confrontations, mutinous coups and other bodacious ploys on your flagging attentions – and if the odd idea slips through the net, well, I’d rather be left wanting more than bogged down in some 1800 page trilogy that ran out of ideas before the end of book one. This is serene, intelligent, awesome SF; dive in.