- Series: Mesklin (Book 1)
- Mass Market Paperback: 174 pages
- Publisher: Pyramid; 3rd THUS edition (1974)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0515034797
- ISBN-13: 978-0515034790
- Package Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.2 x 0.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 45 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,733,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mission of Gravity Mass Market Paperback – 1974
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"Every so often a science-fiction novel is published which is immediately recognized as a classic--a book which makes an instant and lasting appeal to readers, which is read and re-read with increasing enjoyment. A magic combination of character, story and imaginative science is, mainly, what makes such a unique book--and this combination is what has made MISSION OF GRAVITY one of the best-remembered science-fiction novels ever written."
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The basic story is about an exploration to an exotic planet which rotates around two suns, and has a very fast spin rate. The planet has immense gravity, but that gravity is offset by the centrifugal forces of the very rapid spinning of the planet. This results in the effective gravity being lighter at the equator than it is at the poles. At least, that was my take on the planet.
Human land a probe at the poles, but gravity is so immense, they can not retrieve it or the information it has gathered. So, the humans in orbit and on a base on one of the moons, interact with the indigenous life on the planet.
The aliens are well done, and interesting.
The use of common terms like day and year are not defined as either the alien world's day, or an Earth day until late in the book. That made for reading to be confusing.
The ending of the book was sort of abrupt.
Old-style understanding of photography which does not fit in with a future science that can do intersteller travel and exploration.
A surprising number of typos in the paperback version I have Del Rey 1954
Overall, and interesting and fun read, but it did feel dated. My grade, a C+
I don't know what happened but it reads like it was OCR scanned and the never proof-read.
You can figure out what Hal wrote (usually) but it takes a lot away from the read.
I would have given to book 5 stars but for the poor copy.
The joy in this book is the physics and the way that humans, and the indigenous aliens that inhabit this high-G world deal with it while attempting to recover a critical science probe that is stuck at the pole of the world at maximum gravity.
If you do not enjoy physics, then don't bother with this one. But if you enjoy that sort of thing, then this story is unforgettable.
I have two minor criticisms. The first is that the minds and thoughts of the aliens are very alike to humans. So much so, that communication is almost completely seamless, and the aliens are able to pick up English without the slightest struggle.
The other critique is that I can't think of a single female character of significance to the plot; this goes both for the humans and apparently as well for the aliens. However, I take this with a grain of salt since Mr. Clement wrote this in the early 1950s, so a product of the times to a degree, perhaps.
A valuable rocketship has crashed in the polar regions of Mesklin, an area of such high gravity that a human could never travel there. At the "Rim", or the equator of the planet, however, the gravity is only three times Earth's gravity. It's here that human Charles Lackland meets Barlennan, Captain of the merchant ship Bree, and establishes communication with the strange being. The Bree is an odd ship, composed of many rafts lashed together, and as tough as her captain.
Here at the Rim, Barlennan and his crew are in dangerous territory, so light that a small wind could lift them away. The Mesklinites are genetically designed to live in the outrageously heavy gravity of the poles, looking like a cross between a scorpion and a caterpillar, accustomed to severe gravity, and only fifteen inches in length and two inches in diameter.
Lackland and Barlennan come to an agreement. In exchange for weather reports and maps, the wily merchant Captain agrees to salvage the un-manned ship at the southern pole. Through a hydrogen atmosphere, across seas of liquid methane, and through ammonia snows, the captain boldly sets out on Lackland's mission - but he has an agenda of his own, something he wants from Lackland in return for his favor.
Barlennan and Dondragmer (first mate of the Bree) are two of the most interesting alien life forms I've ever read about. The interaction between what could be considered on an insect on Earth and the humans at the moon station is astoundingly well written. Barlennan is a fascinating personality, bold and clever and completely likable.
'Mission Of Gravity' is "hard" enough for the science expert yet thrilling enough for the "soft" or "vague" SciFi aficionado, 'Mission Of Gravity' is a well-told story that will enchant every fan of every sub-genre of SciFi. Accompanying this timeless novel is an Afterward comprised of an article Hal Clement wrote for 'Astounding Science Fiction' magazine in June of 1953, outlining the work he put into this pleasurable tale. Enjoy!