This book is a collection of eleven short stories written by Arthur C. Clarke. The book was originally published in 1953. The copy that I read (pictured in this entry) is the 1985 edition, its cover art was done by Stanislaw Fernandes. The eleven stories are:
- Second Dawn
- “If I forget thee, oh earth…”
- Breaking Strain
- History Lesson
- Exile of the Eons
- Hide and Seek
- Expedition to Earth
- The Sentinel
Each and every story is interesting and worthwhile. This collection of stories is amazing. I say that because, as a general rule, I dislike short stories. I usually avoid them at all costs and don’t bother to try to read them. I think short stories have gotten a bad reputation because it seems they are have become the choice product of those who actually cannot write very well. Needless to say, the fact that I truly enjoyed and highly recommend these stories is significant because they are so far from my normal reading preferences.
The titles are okay, but in my mind, as I read the story, I simplified the titles. So, “Second Dawn” became “The One with the one-legged people.” And “Exile of the Eons” was “The One Where Hitler Wakes Up.” Mind you, there is nothing but a vague resemblance to Hitler in that story, and the point is not about Hitler but about reasons for exile. Here is one of the main reasons that I loved these stories: they were science-fiction, but also philosophical. At each story, I was particularly impressed with Clarke’s ability to write a really engaging story, focused on science-fiction themes and settings, that was also interesting from a philosophical viewpoint. Also, unlike many authors, Clarke doesn’t browbeat the reader. The “moral” of the story (if there is one) and the “conclusion” of the story are not heavy-handed and the reader is not forced to follow the author’s position/opinion.
The stories are all written smoothly, starting in media res, without a tedious amount of background or rambling justification. This was a pure joy to read. My favorite story is “History Lesson.” My second favorite is “Hide and Seek.”
This should be mandatory reading for all those who read science-fiction. It should also be mandatory to all college students. It would also be an excellent book for book clubs that like to have discussion-based meetings. For those who love a good book that makes one imagine and ponder – this is a definite.