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Lion of Comarre and Against the Fall of Night [Paperback]

Arthur C. Clarke


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Book by Clarke, Arthur C.

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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars "...the...fortress, had fallen at last...destroyed by the patient tendrils of the ivy and the...blindly burrowing worms." Oct. 6 2013
By Mark Louis Baumgart - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is an omnibus of two stories, one novella and one novel from Arthur C. Clarke's early days as an science fiction writer. In this book's Introduction Clarke states that he was influenced in writing these by John W. Campbell and his story 'Twilight', and Olaf Stapleton and his novel "Last And First Men". And while I can see these influences, especially in Clarke's millennia reaching concepts here, these stories also clearly have the influences of writers like his contemporary Leigh Brackett, and his predecessor Clark Ashton Smith stamped all over these two stories.

The first story here is the novella "The Lion Of Comarre". In it, and in the year 3100, Richard Peyton III is an utter disgrace to his family. His father and his great and influential grandfather want him to go into something respectable, like the arts, but Richard is stubborn, he wants to specialize in the lost skills of being a technologist/engineer. Unable to change his parents minds, Richard runs away to his friend's, Alan Henson II, residence where Alan's research into Richard's ancestry has found that he is a direct descendent, twenty-two times removed, to the great Rolf Thordarsen, the legendary creator and builder of the fabled Comarre. Comarre was built by the ancients, which lasted but a brief time in human history before falling to human apathy. However, those human ruler that came later have chosen to destroy and/or hide all information and knowledge about it, so that now, like Atlantis, Comarre is has become a legend among mankind.

Richard, with the help of the scientific underground finds his way to Comarre, and it is here that he that he will find out if the legends told about Comarre are correct, or whether the legend is just that, a legend.

This is a charming, and innocent questing, and coming-of-age story as a young man finds his purpose in life. Personally, I found the novella a little too short, it could have gone on for more pages, and I still would have enjoyed this story just as much. It's too bad that Clarke never continued Richard's story in further stories. But, maybe it was for the best as the imaginative reader can now create Richard's life from this point onward, as we were probably meant to do.

The second story in this omnibus is "Against The Fall Of Night" which is an early version of the novel "The City And The Stars", and oddly enough, both novels have remained simultaneously in print ever since their creation.

Like "The Lion Of Comarre", the novel "Against The Fall Of Night" is another coming-of-age story, a story of the far, far future, and of mankind that has grown complacent in their near immortality. Only in this novel, things have become much, much worse. Alvin is the only child that has been born in seven thousand years, and he has become lonely as he has no real contemporaries, and intellectually restless.

Alvin starts to dig around in Diaspar's past, and to ask uncomfortable questions, such as, what is the world actually like beyond the walls of Diaspar. His curiosity, his questions, and his exploring of the, now abandoned, buildings that make up Diaspar's outskirts', is frowned upon. It's these building which are the only place in the city where a person can see the stars in the sky

Being the headstrong boy that he is, Alvin finds ways to find information about his inquiries, even if such information gathering is frowned on, and he is aided in his quest by his friend, the current Keeper of the Records, Rorden, who is also curious about Diaspar's past.

Alvin's journey only really takes off when he finds out that despite common knowledge and apathy, there is still another city on Earth that has been forgotten by the residents of Diaspar. It is the city Lys, and all passages to it have either been blocked, or hidden, so that those that wish to travel to it have to earn the right to travel there.

Even so, as Rorden points out to Alvin, even if they were to find one of the ways to get there, Alvin is simply not prepared to go. Alvin agrees, and so another journey is embarked on; the first, to find a passage to Lys and the second, to prepare himself for the journey, and as he prepares, Clarke shows Alvin becoming more and more aware of his surroundings, and as such, himself.

Essentially, both of these stories are thematically linked, as both Alvin and Richard are cut from the same cloth. Both are young men who are intellectually restless, curious, stubborn, and willing to endure hardships in the pursuit of information, and adventure, Never has rebellion seemed so respectful in the way that both will rebel against society, societal mores, and societal assumptions, and who will still find their place in the universe through their trials, adventure(s), and their revolutionary shake-ups of their home societies. Both have that wistful far-looking innocence, and romanticism, that pre-digest pulp science fiction, and science fiction prose often had. Here's an example of the prose that can be found in these books: "They watched in silence, and with them all the thousands in the streets and towers of Diaspar, until the last cloud slowly faded from sight, sucked dry by the hot, parched air of the unending deserts." It was for stuff like this that I first started reading science fiction.

Both stories also manage to find romance and wonder in mankind's decadence. Both of these stories were written and meant for John W. Campbell's "Astounding Stories", but were rejected, and would appear in one of science fiction's last great pulps, "Thrilling Wonder Stories" in 1949 and 1948, respectively, and this is probably for the best. While little known today by current science fiction readers, these two stories are time capsules of an earlier age, and a younger, and still learning, future science fiction master, and are full of wonder, and well worth rediscovering from time when sf wasn't all endless series, war and/or horror fiction.

A special notice should be taken of the cover, which, quite frankly, by all definitions, sucks. A chimpanzee throwing it's feces against a canvas could have done a better job.

For this site I have also reviewed these other science fiction books:

Beachheads in Space (selections) edited by August Derleth.
Fantasy Reader #1: Alien Carnival by Walt Liebscher.
Gravity (Wheeler Compass) by Tess Gerritsen.
Jemma7729 by Phoebe Wray.
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1: 1929-1964 edited by Robert Silverberg.
Extraodinary Tales of Victorian Futurism: Steampunk edited by Mike Ashley.
Transit of Earth (Playboy Science Fiction) edited by Ray Russell.
Trouble With Tycho by Clifford D. Simak.

I have also reviewed these facsimile pulp magazine reprints:

Marvel Tales: December 1939.
Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories - 06-07/31 edited by Elliot Dold.
Out Of This World Adventures #2 (December 1950) edited by Donald A. Wollheim.
Planet Stories: Summer 1947 edited by Paul L. Payne.
Planet Stories: Winter 1949 edited by Paul L. Payne.
Startling Stories: January 1942 edited by Oscar J. Friend.
5.0 out of 5 stars magic Feb. 9 2013
By Theresa May - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This novel was written a few years before I was born, and I found it as a teenager. I rediscovered it lately, and the magic that enchanted me all those years ago is still there. Arthur C Clarke had the magic, so had Tolkien, and one or two others I have read.You read it, and look out and the sky, and wonder.. And when you have the some reaction some forty years later, you know the book is special. So much better a story than 2001, the two can't even compare. If you are wishing for magic and wonderment,and the heartache of man's journey, wherever he is going, read this book.. and look up at the stars.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best stories ever Jan. 1 2013
By Jens T. Jensen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I first read "Against the Fall of Night" in the 1970's as a kid. This is one of my 2 favorite fiction novels (along with Atlas Shrugged).
It asked the fundamental question of if having all your needs taken care of is enough, or do we need to explorer the unknown.
5.0 out of 5 stars Pivotal Literature Jan. 5 2012
By Gasconade - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If there were ever an encyclopedia dedicated to overcoming the fall of humanity, this would have to be present in the introductory portions that discuss the how and why of said encyclopedia. I think it could be termed a mini-masterpiece, a splendid double-feature, set to inspire human minds against the dim haze of complacency. Indeed, it is a tome for the cure social diseases.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good starter book for younger readers July 20 2000
By Dave Deubler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Two works of intermediate length are published together in this volume by the colossus of science fiction. The protagonists are both young men whose dissatisfaction with the stagnation of their respective societies leads them on quests for change and growth; one visits the legendary Comarre, and the other finds his destiny in the stars. "The Lion of Comarre" is a longish short story featuring Richard Peyton III, a young man who, much to the dismay of his illustrious family, loves gadgets - a waste, since his society believes that everything that can be invented already has been. Having bigger dreams, however, he goes off to find the secret of the legendary Comarre, a self-contained city built by a long-dead ancestor. With the help of an amicable lion, he overcomes the dangers of the citadel, and discovers its long-buried secrets. "Against the Fall of Night" is closer to a short novel, and was actually rewritten by Clarke as the novel The City and the Stars. In this story, Alvin feels trapped in the isolated tower city of Diaspar, the last great refuge on Earth. Its inhabitants possess immortality, but are still constrained by their fear of the world outside. Alvin does not share their fear and finds his way to the previously unknown city of Lys, where life is short, but people have mastered the art of telepathy. Alvin continues to make more discoveries, finally revealing secrets that rewrite the history of humanity, and eventually point to the stars. There are plenty of interesting ideas thrown around in these two stories, although in neither case does Clarke develop them as fully as he perhaps should have. Both characters are flat, uninteresting, mere charicatures of inquisitive young men. As such the shorter "Lion" works better, since it tries to do less and has a tighter plot. "Night" has very little more substance to it story-wise, since it's just the same "discovery" plot over and over as new wonders are uncovered. As to the wonders themselves, they're clearly intended to be the stars of the show; but to today's readers, intelligent machines and underground transport centers may seem like pretty standard sci-fi fare. This book is recommended for younger readers just discovering science fiction, since there is no exclusively adult content, but more experienced readers will probably want something meatier.

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