Friday, September 12, 2008

Book Review: _Islands in the Sky_ by Arthur C. Clarke

When George Lucas was filming the first Star Wars film, and the government authorities had to take a look at the plans for the X-Wing fighter to determine whether government secrets had been leaked out, they missed the boat by about 30 years. Science fiction writers had been guessing the state of things for ages, and it's truly a remarkable experience to see just how right they were. I just read the late Arthur C. Clarke's Islands in the Sky, and was fascinated with the intricate descriptions of the Space Shuttle, weather satellites, communication devices, ideas of orbiting solar energy panels, space stations..etc... all written in 1952! Simply amazing. How one man could think of the entire world so far ahead, and then live long enough to see it come to fruition. And we did go to Venus (although not a manned outfit) by 1985, but found it incredibly hot and uninviting. So the time frame was off a little, but the ideas were sound.

Another aspect was how similar this book is to Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. I know this comparison has been made before, some even suggesting that OSC copied it from Clarke (which is not true at all, but instead points to how amazingly accurate Clarke was when developing the science behind the novel). It is a homage to Clarke for Card to be so directly compared with him. The orbiting space "hotel", with it's rotating gravity wells, is almost identical to the military training station in Ender's Game. Also the ideas about where "down" was in space. There is room enough in this world for both novels.

One day, when the fascination for things of fantasy fade, when dragons are asleep on their hoards, and vampires are safely stored in their coffins, and wizards study the stars rather than alchemy, the jewels of science fiction will come back to enchant children once again. Islands in the Sky is currently out of print, and I only hope that one day that return to join the classics of the age, never to go out of print again. In fact, there are quite a few novels now that teenagers and kids can read from the masters of science fiction. They are valuable resources for teachers who want to incorporate science and math into reading. I'm gonna list some of them here, and will work on it more as a resource for teachers that come to Borders.

Have Space Suit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein

Red Planet also by Heinlein

Dolphin Island by Clarke

And every student should be exposed to the short story "Cold Equations," by Tom Godwin. Not to mention stories by Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.

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