Science Fiction Though the Decades

Friday, June 29, 2012

1956: Reach for Tomorrow (Clarke, Arthur C.)

Classic short stories, some gems, some predictability (3/5)
From April 22, 2009

I've read only a handful of Clarke's novels but I've found them to be just OK. While 2001 (1968) was excellent (along with its sequel 2010 [1982]), I didn't much care for Childhood's End (1953) or Islands in the Sky (1952). When it comes to his short stories, Clarke is more predictable in his greatness. The collection The Nine Billion Names of God (4/5) was a great selection of Clarke's talent, but Reach for Tomorrow doesn't quite hurdle over the bar that Nine Billion set later in 1967. I guess you could say I prefer Clarke's later work rather than his vintage stock.

All of the stories below are shortstories, besides "Rescue Party" and "Jupiter Five," which are novelettes.

Rescue Party (1946) - 5/5: Menagerie of aliens on a solar system exploration ship stumbles upon a sun about to go nova- Earth's sun. They whisk away to Earth to rescue anyone they can, only to realize that no one is there except the intact structures and subway system. Being that the humans have only had radio for 200 years, where could those humans have gone? 29 pages

A Walk in the Dark (1950) - 4/5: A man confronts his imagination during a 4-mile walk in the pitch dark on a galaxy-edged planet, when he remembers a haunting tale of chitinous sounds beyond the arc of a flashlight... too bad he doesn't have a flashlight. 10 pages

The Forgotten Enemy (1953) - 4/5: London has the population of one as glaciers approach England from the north. Regent's Park helicopters evacuated everyone ten years ago. Now Professor Millward struggles to hear news of catch sight of what has happened in the north and whether the nuclear charges have brought the cold to a halt. 7 pages

Technical Error (1950) - 4/5: An advanced power plant engineer gets caught in an accident which results in him being transported through the fourth dimension, having his left-and-right-handed sides switched. Will the company keep him alive for £5,000/day or put him through the `accident' again? 19 pages

The Parasite (1953) - 2/5: An Englishman escapes to an Italian island after being invaded by a second mind, named Omega. His friend converses with him to learn the truth... which is rather predicable. 13 pages

The Fires Within (1949) - 3/5: A scientist secures a letter from another scientist describing a way to look deep into the earth, hoping to see the core but finds traces of something entirely different. 10 pages

The Awakening (1951) - 2/5: A man bored with utopia takes off to round Pluto while being put on ice, planning to return to earth in the far Earth future. Has a utopian or dystopian society emerged? 5 pages

Trouble with the Natives (1951) - 4/5: Two bipedal aliens, part of an even more alien crew, descend to bucolic England to find a suitable ambassador. However, the two aliens have only learnt of English culture from prim-and-proper BBC radio and television broadcasts. Can they convey their message and maintain disguise? 14 pages

The Curse (1953) - 3/5: Narrator in post-nuclear Europe describes the scene in a quaint town where a tombstone lays facing an approaching river. Who is buried there? 3 pages

Time's Arrow (1952) - 3/5: A group of paleontologists uncovering dinosaur tracks are working nearby a mysterious research facility working with Helium II, which has just as much mystery itself. Why is the facility out there near the dinosaur fossils? 16 pages

Jupiter Five (1953) - 3/5: A professor and his small team head to Jupiter Five- a satellite of Jupiter where the professor believes there is an alien relic. Another ship joins their exploration of the object only to result in a betrayal of friendship. The professor's quick thinking comes up with a celestial mechanics solution... a bit beyond me. 33 pages

The Possessed (1952) - 3/5: A Swarm of alien energy-like intelligences falls to Earth after escaping their stars destruction. One part of the Swarm begins to evolve a lizard while the rest sweep across the sea of stars to find a suitable intelligent host. What will become to the lizard's evolution and the rest of the Swarm's quest? 6 pages


  1. I have this one and Expedition to Earth on my shelf, but after the underwhelming Childhood's End and The City and the Stars I've been avoiding Clarke. Good to know his short stories are better than his novels.

  2. Glad to know that I'm not the only one who didn't find much within Childhood's End. I've kept it on my shelves to review it at a later date... just in case I missed something mind-boggling.

    1. I thought it was an interesting idea, but not very mind-boggling, and its execution was just shoddy. Besides, the "humanity's children ascendant" trope pops up in a lot of stories a decade before Clarke got to it, and Clarke didn't do much new with it.