Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Reading science in scifi

So I finished Rendezvous with Rama and it was good! I have been meaning to go back and read the past Hugo and Nebula award winners and this one at least still holds up. Today's science fiction is dominated by space opera or by use of the political or noir thriller forms. Clarke's approach to scifi isn't one we see as much today, the scientific thought experiment. Clarke shows what it would be like to explore a giant cylindrical space habitat. The plot basically revolves around humans dealing with the physics of exploring such a giant space. There is a bit of politics as well, but that serves just to provide another lesson in the distances of space.

I've presented the book as didactic, which it isn't, to note that this book was written with an strong emphasis on science. There has been lots of handwaving about the American engineering and science base being under-invested just as the Chinese and Indian bases begin to take off. This book would certainly be evidence that in the past, the public was happy to read stories that explain scientific reality. I'm not sure if they still are.

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