I’ve never read much Arthur C. Clarke. I read lots of other golden age writers: Bradbury, Bester, Simak, Asimov, Heinlein, Pohl, Kornblutch, etc. But not Clarke. Can’t think why. I suppose I just wrote him off because the movie 2001 was so boring, and the book of his that was in all the stores, Rendezvous With Rama, seemed incredibly dull. However, I recently purchased Jo Walton’s essay collection What Makes This Book So Great and have found it to be a great source of book recommendations (it’s where I learned about Random Acts of Senseless Violence, for instance). And one of the books she recommended was Against The Fall Of The Night. I went online, very skeptical, to read the Kindle sample, and…I loved it. What a fantastic book! It’s so sweeping and magisterial. It’s about a young man who’s born ten billion years from now, on the last remaining city in a completely desertified Earth. I haven’t gotten far yet, but the Walton is absolutely right that this book exudes a sense of heaviness and stillness–the sense of time hanging dead on top of you–that is pretty magnificent. For instance, the first scene in the book consists of the people of the city rushing out from their towers to stare at the sky:
Convar’s voice was sad when presently he spoke to his son.
“Look at it well, Alvin,” he said. “It may be the last the world will ever know. I have only seen one other in all my life, and once they filled the skies of Earth.”
They watched in silence, and with them all the thousands in the streets and towers of Diaspar, until the last cloud slowly faded from sight, sucked dry by the hot, parched air of the unending deserts.