Nutshell: copy of a copy of the colonial administrator on Titan travels to Earth to make yet another copy of himself, gets re-involved in love triangle, gives congressional speech at US quincentennial, &c.
Doesn't ever really get off the ground for me. Not until the final third of the volume does the love triangle reactivate, along with an arbitrarily associated techno-financial intrigue. The latter involves the construction of a very large radio telescope to pick up kilometer-sized radio waves that originate in "star beasts," "hundreds of thousands of kilometers across" living for millions of years in the interstices between stars (284). Yeah, I know, right?
Reads like an anthropology of earthlings by an alien for numerous sections (social, geographical, archaeological, zoological). Lotsa humor generated this way, from malapropisms, misrecognized history, and so on. It's like the opposite of [b:Rendezvous with Rama|112537|Rendezvous With Rama (Rama, #1)|Arthur C. Clarke|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327910814s/112537.jpg|1882772], where now the aliens explore us, which is about as exciting.
Tries to do something slick with a section (174-82) involving a tour of the salvaged HMS Titanic
. Narrator is from Titan
. Haha CLEVAR! Not sure what the comparison is supposed to be, though.
Cool to track the lapses (not that such lapses toll against the writer--who, after all, can predict the future in all its particulars?): all possible information is stored in various locations, and can be accessed electronically--very internet--but since the library on a ship only holds ten people, it bottlenecks at that point (75)--so, no ipads?
As I mused in discussing [b:Orbitsville|403814|Orbitsville|Bob Shaw|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1174454126s/403814.jpg|937455], spacefaring narratives have their own magic systems with regard to FTL travel. In this one, we're pre-interstellar travel, but the magic still arises in some engaging discussion of the asymptotic drive, which involves hooking a vessel up to a singularity (87-91). Cool thing is that the singularity is fed hydrogen, and accumulates mass--so they get too heavy eventually for the vessel and must be discarded. Where in the flying fuck do they dump all the used black holes, then? Tell me that, Mr. Clarke!
Earth has developed some useful practices in the near future: public servants are selected by lot from a pool of qualified persons, and those who want the job are by definition not qualified (111); motor vehicles run on autopilot (116); the profit motive is extinct (191).
Thoughtful interpretation of [b:Moby Dick|153747|Moby-Dick|Herman Melville|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327940656s/153747.jpg|2409320] (210-11). Plenty of self-derogating anxiety of influence moments, such as when the narrator "did not relish playing a role in some sleazy, old-time spy or detective melodrama" (219), though the novel is not fairly described in those terms. Flash of Clarke's genius in telling how Earth "probed the surfaces of distant stars, detected their hidden planets, discovered such strange entities as neutrino suns, antitachyons, gravitational lenses, spacequakes, and revealed the mind-wrenching realms of negative-probability 'Ghost' states and inverted matter" (241).
Recommended for barbarians from the outer darkness, those coming from an aggressively egalitarian society, and persons outraged that a god should be afflicted with lice.