Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Book Review: Arthur C. Clarke, _Dolphin Island_

Book Review: Arthur C. Clarke's Dolphin Island

If you read any How to Write a Book book, one of the first comments is that every author must know his/her audience. For certain, science fiction writers of the 1960's knew that if they were to get an audience addicted to science fiction books, they must first write novels that teenagers would read. Heinlein's Red Planet, or Have Space Suit, Will Travel, and Clarke's Dolphin Island, are some examples.

A note about science fiction and fantasy, from one looking back at the 20th century. In the 1960's, during the heat of the space race and the development of nuclear power, television, computers...etc... science and technology were thought to be the savior of the future. There is nothing that science cannot do, no disease they cannot treat, no problem it cannot solve. Shows like Star Trek proved this theory (although with Roddenberry's idea, that happened only with the addition of the human spirit, the will to adapt and expand their learning). And for the next couple of decades, this was basically true. Small Pox was decimated, the telephone and computer made communication and productivity soar. But the naivety that nothing is impossible through science came to a tragic head when the AIDS virus hit in the 1980's. Suddenly, there was a disease that nothing could be done about. Technology had caught up with science fiction, and suddenly, there were no more gadgets that could be thought up that weren't already invented. Thus the rapidly expanding genre of science fiction fizzled out in the 1980's, and fantasy novels became the going theme. This is especially true in Young Adult fiction, with JK Rowling and Christopher Paolini proving that the dragon is much more profitable than the space ship, at least by today's kid's standards. With the exception of Star Wars novels, there are very few children's science fiction books these days. It is up to the reading adults to find and republish those books that will inspire today's teenagers to take up the cross of science (sorry, the metaphor was there) and carry it forward into the future.

Arthur C. Clarke (the late, having lived out his many years in Sri Lanka), wrote Dolphin Island early in his career, presumably after a trip to Austrailia, where most of the book takes place. The book is light, with an episodic feel to it. Each chapter throws a problem up to Johnny, the main character, and it is up to him, and the Dolphins, and the scientists on the island to solve them. The book is a great read for boys who like the out of doors, for readers of Gary Paulsen or Jean Craighead George. The book is out of print, but can be easily found online for a reasonable amount. Definitely worth looking into, if you have children or love science fiction. For adults, check out Clarke's Songs of a Distant Earth, which shares in the same theme and feel.


Next up is Coldplay's Viva la Vida, which I'm listening to now.

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