Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book review: Arthur C. Clarke - The Collected Stories

It's about time I started reviewing the books I read again and the last one I've read is a massive one, by Sir Arthur C. Clarke called 'The Collected Stories'.
It's a collection of almost all the shorter than novel stories written by the master science fiction writer and the book contains more than 100 stories and is almost 1000 pages long.

Front cover (image from Wikimedia)

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the author 
You may have heard about the author in relation to the movie '2001: A Space Odyssey', as the 'father' of modern science fiction or his predictions regarding things such as the communication satellite.
But make no mistake, not only was he brilliant in his understanding of science and the future he was also an excellent short story writer, as you'll see in this book.
He can create more suspense in a story which is only a couple of pages long, than some authors manage in an entire full length novel.
And even after reading 100 stories he'll still manage to surprise you and give you that 'Bloody hell, I didn't see that coming'-feeling.

He also manages to write 100+ stories which are different and refreshing all the way through. Not only are you guessing at what the story is about and how it will end, you are also being pulled into another exiting universe as each new story unfolds.

Besides the short stories in this book, Sir Clarke has also written a large number of full length novels and non-fiction books. So if you aren't a fan of short stories (you will be after reading this book ;-) ), there's a lot more to him.

The stories
I'm not going to give you a full synopsis of all the stories in the book (especially since many of them aren't much longer than your usual synopsis) and I'll just mention them in broad terms.

But there's stories about war, love, exploration, monsters, crazy inventions, family, space, Earth, many of the planets and moons, teleportation and everything else you could want in a science fiction story.
You'll meet many different intelligent species, experience time travel, supernovae exploding, alternative human races and history unfolding and ending.
Of course the end of the world and the undoing of the universe is also here.
And then you'll read the stories you never even imagined.

In short, this book has everything. Including the longest science fiction story ever told (hint: it's infinitely long) and a story consisting of nothing more than a one page memo.

In case you haven't noticed I really enjoyed reading this book and in case you like science fiction, I can highly recommend it.
Unlike other 1000 pages sci-fi monsters (I have several I'll never complete), this one is easy to read in small instalments and therefore is a book you'll eventually finish. you don't have to remember what happen on page 71 to understand the dialogue on page 852; the two stories are most like completely unrelated (though some of the stories take place in the same universe or use the same starting point, they do not require that you read them in order (mostly)).

So go get it, or one of the other many books written by Sir Arthur C. Clarke.

An alternative
In case you want to start out a bit easier, you can do as I did and start with another short story collection by him.
I started with one called 'The Sentinel' (which is also the name of one of Sir Clarke's most famous stories) which contains about 12 stories or so.