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Book 2

  1. Pohl, Frederik — Gateway (278 pages)
  2. Clement, Hal — Mission of Gravity (193 pages)

Page count: 471 of targeted 12,500.

This was a fairly uninteresting read. I thought Clement would make more of the fact that his story takes place on a high-gravity planet, but most of the narrative takes place on the oddly-shaped planet's low-gravity areas. Thus, there's nothing very peculiar or different about most of the story. The plot ends up being a list of moderately challenging situations with their fairly straightforward resolutions, and that doesn't make for very exciting reading. Plus, one thing in particular bugged the hell out of me: the author is obsessed with hard science and goes to great lengths to ensure that the oddities of his planet are adequately explained and scientifically plausible; yet he never explains how a species equipped only with pincers for hands can become so proficient at skills that require a high level of manual dexterity. For a novel which is all about the science, this oversight felt like a letdown.


Jan. 19th, 2007 09:49 pm (UTC)
Re: Clement
The scissors problem could be solved with some kind of gloves. Assume they were available ... or something equally useful.

[1] Clement had long talks with Asimov about the world he was building. The details he includes reflect the results of those talks. The highly descriptive manner in which the story was presented was typical of SF in the late forties and early fifties; Clement wasn't as bad as some of them: try reading E.E. Smith's Lensman series of stories. Assume there were many oversights, too, as Clement himself admits.

[2] You've read other fiction from the period, including SF. Much of what everybody wrote was awkward by modern standards. This awkwardness so pervades writing of the time that I'm convinced you couldn't sell a story written any other way at that time.

Benford was a practicing physicist who wasn't handicapped by mathematics. He was involved in collaborations with several others who were as astute as he is. He was also writing in a somewhat more modern style, evolved from the earlier styles. He was also a much better writer than Clement. Clement's fame comes from being among the first to extrapolate on what we thought we knew about the universe, about 90% of which we've discovered to be at least slightly in error since the beginning of the space age.
Jan. 19th, 2007 10:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Clement
One can't assume some sort of gloves. It begs the questions of how gloves were made. I'd have to assume that gloves magically appeared, and then this world would be closer to something by Terry Pratchett than hard science fiction.

Besides, we know they don't wear gloves. Clement goes into great detail about everything the Mesklinites do. He describes how their razor sharp pincers can cut through metal with relative ease. If the Mesklinites were removing gloves to cut through metal or flesh, you'd think Clement would mention that somewhere in his lengthy descriptions of how the Mesklinite proceeded to cut through a piece of metal or a beached carcass. Based on Clement's own words, I have to assume that there are no gloves and that he simply didn't completely think through the Mesklinite anatomy.

BTW, yes, I've read plenty of stuff from the forties and fifties, and I have to disagree that Clement's writing deficiencies are endemic to the era. In fact, a lot of what I've read from that generation is much better written than stuff produced today.

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