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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Interesting for Clarke fansMarch 31 2002
Bill R. Moore
- Published on Amazon.com
This is not Clarke's best collection of essays, but it is an interesting - and, for him, somewhat unique one. There are a couple of his non-fiction books that everyone should read (The Promise of Space, Profiles of The Future, Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds), and this is not one of them, but it will certainly delight fans of the author. It's split into four sections: the first, War and Peace In The Space Age, gives the book its title. This material, which mostly discusses the peaceful applications of communications satellites and other such things during the early 1980's is invariably somewhat dated, and could be easily casually tossed off as outdated Cold War paranoia. And, though this is certainly the well from which the material sprung, Clarke is a great enough writer for the material to remain interesting. He has some nice views, too: there's another instance here of his famous coinage "We will take no frontiers into space." Another sections deals with, of course, space; this is an intersting take, as it always is with Clarke, and one of the most novel pieces is a bit on the myths and absurdities of space travel: in these, Clarke dismisses common paranoic delusions involved with space travel, and clears up some of its most common misconceptions. Another section is somewhat surprising coming from ACC: it deals with literary subjects. It includes a couple of forwards to books he wrote for other people, including the hilarous introduction he wrote for his agent's book, and a document of his hilarous correspondence with the late playwright George Bernard Shaw. The last section is a series of articles he wrote about his home country, Sri Lanka - these are nice, enlightening pieces. Also, the book ends with an article entitled "The Menace of Creationism; in it, Clarke - one of its most outspoken modern critics - launches an interesting attack upon said subject, invoking the Vatican's views on the subject, and declaring that no Creationist should be allowed to teach Biology or the Earth Sciences in school (surely a rational view.) This could be a fairly controversial piece, and should be read by all those who find themselves in agreement with Clarke's views on organized religion. In the end, you will want to read this book if you are a fan of Arthur C. Clarke; and, if you're not, you won't bother.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Dated science and other tediously repetitive essaysJuly 18 2001
- Published on Amazon.com
This collection of essays and speeches from the late 70's and early 80's features many of the themes that Clarke is commonly associated with: Space, the future, and Sri Lanka. The biggest surprise is the long chapter of essays on subjects literary, including some comments on Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men, a reminiscence about George Bernard Shaw, and an essay on how Space is described in English poetry. Unfortunately, much of this section is devoted to forwards written for books that the average science fiction fan will never read, so that while this chapter is at least different, it's may not be of much interest to those legions of fans of Clarke's fiction who would be most likely to read this book. The rest of this volume is more in line with other collections of essays Clarke has published, and suffers from most of the same weaknesses. For one thing, the level of repetition in these pieces gets tedious rather quickly, as a long series of articles describe the advantages of and history behind Clarke's main obsession of the period, a satellite-based system for surveillance of the earth's surface. Another point that is hammered home repeatedly is the predicted development of "electronic tutors": imagine a Game Boy except that instead of having fun with it, you learn from it. Of course this book was published before the personal computer revolution, so Clarke can be forgiven for not realizing that kids would know when a program was trying to teach them something, and quickly move on to something more entertaining. This is not to say that Clarke was wrong about the use of electronics for teaching, but rather that the development of machines whose sole function was teaching was unnecessary - modern PC's being versatile enough to be used for any number of purposes - but then, who among us was smart enough to foresee that? Perhaps the best piece in the book is the entry detailing Clarke's (then) recent trip to the Soviet Union, coyly titled "To Russia, with Love..." and featuring the pacing, personalities, and ideas that make his fiction so interesting, but there is little else in the book this good. The weakest group of essays is on the subject that should be Clarke's strength - Space and Space travel. Most of this section had a decidedly historical bent to it to begin with, and the passage of another 17 years has only exacerbated the problem. Collections like this one may be interesting enough while they're still current, but too much of this material is either dated or completely unscientific.