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The Gulag Archipelago Mass Market Paperback – 1974


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Harper & Row Publishers Inc., New York, New York, U. S. A.; First Edition edition (1974)
  • ASIN: B00117U7A4
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.2 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,686,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

I kept thinking it would get better as I read farther into it, but it never did, and the ending was the worst part.
Robert Steimle
I gave it a mercy 2 stars, not 1, because it is an early work, and (presumably) Lee has improved significantly, but I've certainly read better.
Steve P
Eighty-five percent of this story is character development, and the characters are as paper thin as the science fiction plot.
Regular Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 5, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Having thoroughly enjoyed Clarke's solo works, especially Rendezvous with Rama, I thought I would give Cradle a shot as that story idea looked interesting. I would soon be disappointed however as I began sinking in the quicksand that is Gentry Lee. If you are looking for a really good science fiction book, you should pass on this one and continue your search.
The first few hundred pages are filled with more-or-less pointless character development, clearly written by Lee, that would be perfectly at home in a Harlequin romance novel. A few pages of sci-fi, clearly written by Clarke, are interspersed so that the reader may be reminded that they paid $6 for a Clarke novel and not $2 for a grocery store romance tome. To be fair, I will admit that the general character interaction and background does come into play later on. But it just drags on and on and is littered with unnecessary sex scenes. I fail to understand Lee's obsession with writing about sex in the middle of a science fiction novel. Once would be OK, but after about the 4th time I found myself dropping the book and thinking "again?!" In addition, Lee's obsession with race, with each character being introduced as being black, white, Arab, Mexican, etc. is very annoying. The way that the race is then portrayed in the most cliché way is increasingly so. Lee may be an able and accomplished scientist, but his writing does not belong on the same pages with that of Arthur C. Clarke.
For some reason, probably because I had paid 900 yen for the book, I decided to stick with it and see the story through to the end. Around page 250 (of 408 total) the book got interesting. From that point forward I found myself wanting to continue to see what would happen next.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Lawrence on August 15, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I remember receiving this book with excitement. Arthur C Clarke was up until then a consistently good read: capturing, like few others, a real sense of wonder without belabouring his points.

This book was his first "collaboration" with Gentry Lee, and from here on his books completely lost me. Lee seems to be obsessed with rubbing our noses in the lesser qualities of humanity while Clarke always made me feel there was something better about us. In this respect I consider that Lee sabotages and subverts Arthur C Clarke's original style and visions. Likewise, he emphasises religious topics where Clarke was always refreshingly free of this.

He did the same thing with Rama, taking something wonderful and piling it up with low-grade human dross. In some respects his writing is realistic, but he is too pessimistic and seems to be fundamentally at odds with the genre he is in; he wants to write basic human drama but for some reason insists on doing it within science fiction trappings.

As others have said he is unfortunately not all that great at human drama anyway. There is a lot of effort expended, but characters somehow fail to convince me.

At the end of Cradle I was left feeling flat and uninterested, and I can't really remember much of the story.

The politest way to view this "collaboration" is that the "marketing department" simply chose to use Arthur C Clarke's name to boost a less-than-average writer. Clearly, Clarke has lost interest in the mechanics of writing, or at least no longer has the time for it. As a result I consider that he stopped writing some time ago and discount Cradle and the Rama sequels entirely.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Craig MACKINNON on October 14, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
There is a piece Star Trek lore that states a race of beings called the Preservers went through the galaxy picking up semi-intellegent life and planting them around the galaxy to protect them from extinction/war/meteors. Spielberg's ET is essentially this same idea, and it's the idea behind this novel, Cradle. In fact, these same authors explore the same territory to better effect in their Rama series. So why read this book?
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.
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