Which are the best must-read novels of Arthur C Clarke?

psikeyhackr

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I have responded before and had to go back and read what I said. I have a problem with the "Must Read" concept in that it implies something really important to get out of books that make the list.

So thinking about that I would put A Fall of Moondust and The City and the Stars in the list. These two books kind of show the extremes of science fiction from a single author. Moondust is hard, near future realism while The City is far, far future imagineering bordering on fantasy.

They also get very different scores on my SF Density program:

Moondust gets 1.409

City & Stars gets 0.626

I tend to think of 0.666 as the cutoff for hard SF because of that devilish science and technology. But there is lots of SF that scores below that like Dune and Ender's Game.
 

Onyx

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I don't comprehend people that don't like science in their SF. I read A Fall of Moondust in 7th or 8th grade. Clarke used Plato's allegory of the cave to explain observing reality via infrared. When do reviewers mention things like that? But make a big deal of SF that you can't learn squat from?
Most science fiction is extrapolation and speculation, not science. Science books are for learning, SF is entertainment within certain bounds.


On topic, I really like 2001 and 2010, Fountains of Paradise and remembered liking Empiral Earth's tone and POV (but I was pretty young). I'd also recommend Clarke's autobiographical Glide Path, about WWII radar controlled approaches for aircraft.

I don't recall Hammer of God real well, but also liked it. It 'inspired' Deep Impact.

Clarke did a nice job presenting largely non-dystopian and realistic versions of the coming century, which I really appreciate.
 
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Lew Rockwell Fan

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I think I've read all his fiction, and tbh, most of it's meh. But occasionally he deserved his rep. I'd say Moondust.

2001 wasn't bad. The madness & killing of Hal was 1st rate. One of the very few things like that I think was actually even better in the movie. But the movie sucks for a terrible symbolic ending nobody could possibly understand properly if they hadn't read the book first.

Fountains had interesting ideas especially for its time. I'm still waiting for my Minisec.
 

Lew Rockwell Fan

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Science books are for learning, SF is entertainment within certain bounds.
Actually, both are for both. Good text books ARE entertaining, and good SF IS educational. Totally agree with psikeyhacker here. If you dislike science in science fiction, you don't like SF. You like stories set in the future. That's not the same thing. Call me a purist genre snob if you like. I'm clearly partisan to one of Snow's 2 cultures. Much of "science fiction" I regard as imitation, and usually, but not always, poor imitation.
 

Onyx

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Actually, both are for both. Good text books ARE entertaining, and good SF IS educational. Totally agree with psikeyhacker here. If you dislike science in science fiction, you don't like SF. You like stories set in the future. That's not the same thing. Call me a purist genre snob if you like. I'm clearly partisan to one of Snow's 2 cultures. Much of "science fiction" I regard as imitation, and usually, but not always, poor imitation.
So you dislike Dune, Player of Games, Star Wars, Star Trek, Foundation, Ringworld, Revelation Space, etc, etc because none of them have any science, and people that like those books must like science even though they have none because they are SF fans?
 

picklematrix

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I think his short stories may be more immediately enjoyable than his novels. Rendesvous with rama, when you get down to it, didnt have much in the way of plot. Short stories are a good way of writing Hard SF that moves retains a good pace.
 

Al Jackson

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Rendezvous with Rama is his best SF novel well paced and one of Clarke most 'conventional' prose stories.
(The sequels seem to be all written by Gentry Lee and they are just plain bad.)

As turgid as they are , at times, Childhood's End and City and the Stars are his best Big Thinks novels.
Childhood's End is Clarke's Olaf Stapledon 'novel' .... lord it reads better than Odd John or Last and First Men or any fiction that Stapledon wrote. Clarke was a Stapledon disciple and a better writer of fiction than his hero.

I fail to understood the affection for A Fall of Moon Dust, nominated for a HUGO, seems thin action to me , a little too 'Popular Mechanics' style of fiction.

2001* and 2010 are very good if not great Clarke. 2061 and 3001 are just awful!

Everything after Rendezvous with Rama did not work for me , both Heinlein and Asimov later works fell into the same problem of their glory days were behind them. Heinlein actually wrote sections of novels , after 1960, that had the old magic then ruining it all with soap boxing!

* I has been known for a long time that Kubrick had an initial interest in Childhoods End .... but you know Sy Fy's respectful version (2015) showed how hard it was to adapt. SyFy had to rejigger the story with a lot of soap opera ... that didn't really work.


As stated above Clarke's short stories are his gems.
 
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Al Jackson

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I agree, go for the short stories first
Yes indeed. SF short stories are the real unique achievement of modern SF prose, kind of like Jazz as a new art form, tho SF is not uniquely American in origin.
 

Edward M. Grant

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I fail to understood the affection for A Fall of Moon Dust, nominated for a HUGO, seems thin action to me , a little too 'Popular Mechanics' style of fiction.
It's hard SF in an alternate universe. I read it again recently and still enjoyed it even though I knew that later visits to the Moon had shown it couldn't really happen in our universe.

I'm surprised it was never made into a movie, even an Irwin Allen cheapie. It probably wouldn't work today, but it could have done back in the 60s or 70s.
 

Al Jackson

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It's hard SF in an alternate universe. I read it again recently and still enjoyed it even though I knew that later visits to the Moon had shown it couldn't really happen in our universe.

I'm surprised it was never made into a movie, even an Irwin Allen cheapie. It probably wouldn't work today, but it could have done back in the 60s or 70s.
Rendezvous with Rama has been optioned for the last 25 or more years, I still don't understand why that has not gotten made , it is the best, even better than 2010 , 'conventional' SF novel by Clarke.
 

Vince W

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I think Sands of Mars should be a must read of Clarke's. It's very Mary Sue, but that only adds to it's charm since even great authors aren't immune.
 

BAYLOR

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I think Sands of Mars should be a must read of Clarke's. It's very Mary Sue, but that only adds to it's charm since even great authors aren't immune.
Sands of Mars was a pretty good read. :cool:
 

Vince W

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Sands of Mars was a pretty good read. :cool:
That's just it.Sands of Mars is pretty good, but the whole sci-fi author on Mars plot makes me think Clarke was writing his own wish fulfillment. It give me hope for an amateur like myself.
 

picklematrix

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Reading City and the Stars at the moment, another really good book. Characters aren't immensely interesting, but it's still a great read.
 

Daysman

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I don't own any Clarke today and haven't read him this century but he was all I read during my early teens, before I discovered PKD, not the juveniles but the novels and short fiction, all hardback library books of course, and you're right, it's the short fiction that stays with you, stories like Loophole, Sunjammer and A Meeting with Medusa -- by the way, wasn't 2001 a novelisation of the movie?

I think Childhoods End was my favourite.
 

BrightStar*

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I didn't see anybody mention The Songs of Distant Earth, its a great summer read. Its a bit utopistic and maybe at times a bit simplistic but with all the water, islands, lobsters(little J. Peterson maybe :giggle:)it gives a good summer vibe. Also it inspired Mike Oldfield to make a great new-age album by the same name.
 

Edward M. Grant

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by the way, wasn't 2001 a novelisation of the movie?
If I remember correctly, the book and script were started at the same time based on the same original story, but diverged as movie production progressed and the script was rewritten. If the book had been a novelization, it wouldn't have been set at Saturn rather than Jupiter.
 

BrightStar*

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Kubrick found out about "Sentinel" Clarke's short story and decided do contact him and they both worked on the screenplay and Clarke wrote the book in the same time. Clarke wrote a separate book about the whole thing titled The Lost Worlds of 2001. I remember a part where he stayed in the famous Chelsea hotel in New York and the guy in the room above him kept a crocodile in his room. Gotta love the 60s :giggle:
 
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