In a mix of scientific speculation and thriller, two seemingly unconnected events trigger the discovery of nothing less than the secret of humanity's existence.--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
The book could be easily described as RAMA doing the work of the Overlords from CHILDHOOD'S END. An unmanned probe comes to Earth to elevate the human species and restore a number of others. This plan is stumbled across by a reporter looking into the alleged disappearance of a secret Navy missile. The probe is making a journey to a dozen planet. At each planet it will assemble life forms based on specimens collected on an earlier visit. In CRADLE, a couple of humans get a chance to tell the aliens that we don't want humans to be elevated. That's pretty much it.
I had a hard time getting through this book. I normally fly through Clarke's books but this one was just bogged down in unnecessary details. This book also contained a large number of sexual scenes that I have to assume were the work of Lee as I have not encountered their like in Clarke's work. I really cannot recommend this book to anyone, so if you haven't read it and were considering it I have to give you fair warning.
Frankly, it is inferior to the Rama series. The plot mostly focusses on a reporter trying to find a test missile she suspects was lost on a test flight. The navy, naturally, wants to prevent word of this leaking out, so are also searching for the missile. One of the absurdities of the book is that the reporter finds the missile site so easily when the navy has been looking for weeks (?) with more resources and information. There are similar absurdities throughout the book. In addition, the characters are laughably 2-dimensional, all defined by some life-altering mental or physical trauma that took place years before. Thirdly and most annoyingly, great detail is taken to explain the details of alien manufacture without telling the reader what they are assembling, so the reader must wade through 4 pages of alien automatons attaching sticks together to discover that they are building an antenna. It's really trying on the reader's patience!
And yet I couldn't help but enjoy the book. The pacing is quick, the writing is usually loose and flowing (with the exception noted above), and it's an easy read. It's not nearly as good as the Rama series, but more enjoyable than much of what's out there in science fiction.
The beginning vignette about the "zoo craft" was, IMHO, written moderately well, but as soon as Carol comes on the scene, it gets very, well, amatuerish. I even went back and reviewed the Rama books, thinking that maybe I had read them so long ago that maybe they [were bad] then, but no, alas, they were (mostly) well constructed plots, with characters with whom I could relate, and relatively few confusing sections. Rama (original) did seem quite different from the others, but that made sense, since Clarke did the original in 1979 (or so, I think), and Lee came on with Rama II.
The opening vignette in Cradle seemed as if it were written by a totally different author, then shipped across the sea to another author who finished the rest of the book.
Then, it dawned on me, Cradle was either a) Written by an amateur author (Gentry Lee), with very little involvement with Clarke, or b) written by an entirely different author than the Rama series, again with little Clarke influence.
The constant switching "mindpoints" (where in one paragraph you hear what Carol is thinking, then the very next sentence you hear what Nick is thinking) is a typical early "learning writer" syndrome. There is a lot of "telling" instead of "showing". The plot points are haphazardly structured throughout, with interesting tidbits thrown in here and there without an uberpurpose. I felt throughout the whole novel that it might not go anywhere, and sho-nuff, it really didn't.
In the Rama II and beyond series, these problems are significantly improved, and show levels of improvement over the evolution of the series.Read more ›