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Expedition to Earth Paperback – October 6, 1998
Attention Science Fiction Fans
Man vs. machine, humans vs. aliens, paranormal activities – discover the best of science fiction with these collectible books. Learn More.
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There are many ways to recapture the sheer fun that science fiction was back when it wasn't even a bit respectable and the idea that Arthur C. Clarke would one day be Sir Arthur was more or less inconceivable. One of the best ways is to go back to a classic short story collection like this, with its bitterly ironic title story of archaeology and its misunderstandings--the classic "Breaking Strain" in which two spacemen struggle over supplies that will do for one--and "The Sentinel," the story that acted as the seed for the late Stanley Kubrick's collaboration with Clarke, 2001.
Clarke always had a more delicate and poetic side, and this collection includes one of his finest stories along this vein, "Second Dawn," in which telepathically gifted aliens without hands deal with the moral dilemmas of science. Many of the stories address a Space Age that never was--Clarke was assuming that things would happen later than they did, but that more would follow quicker; this in itself gives the book charm as an add-on to its considerable conceptual wit. Few short story collections are SF classics, but this is a major exception. --Roz Kaveney, Amazon.co.uk
From the Inside Flap
ELEVEN MASTERFUL SCIENCE FICTION TALES OF WONDER IN THIS WORLD AND BEYOND
HIDE AND SEEK
"K.15 was a military intelligence operative. It gave him a considerable pain when unimaginative people called him a spy. But at the moment he had much more serious grounds for complaint . . ."
"When the war opened we had no doubt of our ultimate victory. The combined fleets of our allies greatly exceeded in number and armament those which the enemy could muster against us. We were sure we could maintain this superiority. Our belief proved, alas, to be only too well founded . . ."
EXPEDITION TO EARTH
"It was in the last days of the Empire. The tiny ship was far from home, and almost a hundred light-years from the great parent vessel searching through the loosely packed stars at the rim of the Milky Way. But even here it could not escape from the shadow that lay across civilization . . ."
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Top Customer Reviews
The quality of the collection is uneven; some of these stories are rather slight and some have dated, but a few are excellent and at least one, "The Sentinel," is sublime. (Clarke's most famous short stories, "The Star" and "The Nine Billion Names of God," were still a few years in the future).
The best stories in this volume are very good indeed. "The Sentinel" was the seed for Clarke's screenplay and novelization of Kubrick's film 2001 (1969). The story only hints at the complexities of the film and novel, but it already perfectly captures the awe of humanity's first discovery of alien intelligence. "Second Dawn" is a remarkable piece of speculation, containing no human characters. "History Lesson" wonders what aliens will make of human culture when they try to read the last shards of our civilization, and comes to a very funny answer. "Exiled to the Eons" is a bitter, sardonic story of a Hitler-like dictator seeking refuge in the future when his attempted conquest of the Earth fails.
Other stories didn't work as well for me. "Superiority," a satire on military bureaucracy, and "Hide and Seek," a science puzzle story, were both lacking in characterization. "'If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth...'" and "Expedition to Earth" have surprise endings that probably worked well in the 1940s but are predictable today. (Not Clarke's fault, of course, that his innovations have been often imitated.)
Overall, though, this is a worthwhile anthology; even at his weakest, Clarke was always literate, humane, erudite and sardonic, and at his best, he was one of the giants of science fiction.
Approach it with an open mind, and you'll enjoy a peek into the early development of a great writer.