"SIR ARTHUR C. CLARKE (1917-2008) wrote the novel and co-authored the screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey. He has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and he is the only science-fiction writer to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. His fiction and nonfiction have sold more than one hundred million copies in print worldwide.
Islands In The Sky is certainly not on par with such later Clarke masterpieces as 2001 or Rendezvous With Rama, nor is it intended to be. This very, very early Clarke novel is just about the only work in his entire canon that seems to have been written with the teen audience in mind. The protagonist is of the "coming of age" age that is commonly featured in such stories, and Clarke uses this to narrarate the story in a slightly condescending, naive tone that is appropriate for such a character. It's quite different for Clarke, who usually writes in such a philosophical, poetic style. It reminds a lot of Robert A. Heinlein's many excellent juvenile novels. As such, this book, while far from being Clarke's best work, this book serves as an excellent introduction to Arthur C. Clarke's incomparable canon, or to the wonderful world of science fiction.
Let us start with an oft-voiced criticism of Arthur C. Clarke's _Islands in the Sky_ (1952): It is not up to Clarke's usual standards. I am sure that a knowledgeable science fiction fan could readily rattle off half a dozen novels by Clarke that are much better pieces of writing. I won't bother to try.
But that being said, is the novel really all that bad? If we look at Isaac Asimov's Lucky Starr series (1952-58) or James Blish's _The Star Dwellers_ (1961) and _Welcome to Mars!_ (1967), we see some juvenile fiction that is fairly weak tea. It's not really _bad_, mind you. But it is just... routine. Clarke's novel is much better written, and it may be fairly counted as one of the best of the Winston line of books for young readers.
The novel invites comparison with another excellent Winston juvenile-- Jack Vance's _Vandals of the Void_ (1953). Vance's book is unabashed, colorful, melodramatic space opera. Clarke's book is the opposite-- a low-key, quiet, realistic treatment of day-to-day life on a space station. Clarke was faced with a problem in writing such a book. If you are going to be low-key and realistic, how are you going to make your story interesting to young readers? There is in fact nothing more boring than a thinly disguised science lecture.
Clarke's solution was to set up a series of events that _seem_ to be mysterious and melodramatic and then to playfully deflate them. Thus, there are moments when it seems as if you are reading about space pirates, aliens, and deadly atomic missles. But in fact, something else is going on instead. Yet the seemingly mundane explanation manages to be just as interesting as the melodramatic scenario; and step by step, it reveals a bit more about the nuts and bolts of life in a space habitat.
Clarke was faced with a problem. He worked out a solution to that problem. He wrote smart and he wrote well. Do you want to gripe because he didn't turn out a classic?
Islands in the Sky (1952) is a science fiction story about the travel adventures of a teenager. Roy Malcolm is a typical boy who really wants to go into space. He becomes a contestant in a Aviation Quiz Program on television and wins first place. When asked where on earth he wants to go, Roy answers "the Inner Station". Despite quite a few objections, the sponsors finally agree to send him into space.
Roy must first pass the medical tests required of space workers. Then he rides on the Sirius into orbit. Finally the spaceship docks at the station and he is towed aboard.
After meeting Commander Doyle, Roy is introduced to the ten apprentices who are currently in training. Tim Benton, the senior apprentice, gives him a tour of the working station and a view of the Residential Station, a hotel for passengers in transit. Then Tim allows Roy to accompany him outside.
Wearing a spacesuit for the first time, Roy is initially terrified by the great fall beneath him. Then he is fascinated by Earth in the sunlight. Then he is overcome by the splendor of space as darkness momentarily surrounds him. He realizes that these few experiences have profoundly changed his life.
Roy spends much of his time with the apprentices, both during their training and in their free periods. He is the butt of Norman Powell's practical jokes, the wrestling partner of Ronnie Jordan, and a witness to the "space pirates" encounter by Peter von Holberg and Karl Hasse. The latter adventure turned out to be the beginning of a space movie.
Roy went on to even more adventures. He helps medevac a sick man to the Space Hospital, meets an "alien monster", and passes out from oxygen deprivation. He also gets to travel in a runaway rocket past the Moon.Read more ›
I saw Islands in the Sky at a local bookstore and because I enjoy Clarke and had never heard of this book for some reason, I had to pick it up. Islands in the Sky is one of Clarkes earlier works. His prose, like always, is clean, crisp and effective. There are ideas in this book that would resurface in his later works, especially Rendezvous with Rama.
Islands in the Sky is a light-hearted read about a young teenager named Roy who won a contest and his prize was to be able to go anywhere on Earth. Because of a technicality he convinced the game show to let him visit the 'Inner Space Station'. This is the beginning of Roy's adventure.
I liked this story well enough. This book was obviously written for a younger audience so a lot of the story elements are contrived. Although I have nothing against books with aliens, I felt the inclusion of them in this book actually took a bit away from the story. Personally I think this book would have had more of an effect on me if it were simply a boy's adventure in space. For the most part that's exactly what it is, just a story about a young boys adventure, but one chapter we learn about how a character named Commander Doyle lost his legs, which involves an alien on Mercury. I actually found that this sucked away the bit of realism this book has.
Overall I still found this to be a good, fast-paced read. While this book doesn't quite compare to Clarke's later works, I still recommend checking it out!