Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Fall of Moondust

A Fall of MoondustA Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I had read this even twenty years ago instead of in 2011, I'd have easily given it a top rating. Clarke's stories are always interesting and the style is impeccable even though A Fall of Moondust suffers slightly from the constant march of technological innovation.

It is only when one realizes that this novel was written in 1961 that Clarke's genius becomes evident. In chapter 7, Clarke envisions not only the development of programs to check spelling and grammar, but asserts that, "Many were the hilarious disasters that had overtaken those who had left it all to electronics." In chapter 9, Clarke's vision of the future includes a marked decline in use of eyeglasses, a prophecy now in progress thanks to LASIK eye surgery. Later, in chapter 17, Clarke raises carbon dioxide poisoning as one of the dangers facing the crew and passengers of the Selene, almost a decade before the crew of Apollo 13 were faced with this same threat.

Though the behavior of the characters is solidly "from the early sixties", the science is plausible, the plot is well-conceived and executed with skill, and the setting? Well, how can one of the greatest science fiction authors possibly go wrong using our own hostile moon for the setting? As dated as A Fall of Moondust might be, it has withstood the test of time and is an engaging and enjoyable read even though a half century has passed since Clarke committed it to paper and mailed it to a publisher. Not many novels -- science fiction or not -- are able to pass that test.

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