And, so I found out in the end, neither was this book. I kept reading Mission of Gravity, all the while wishing that I hadn’t chosen it. Hal Clement, who studied astronomy at Harvard, and wrote this in 1954, is by his own definition, a hard sci-fi writer. Yes, this is science fiction in that it goes over in painstaking detail every physical and chemical reason for everything happening, which makes it read like instructions for a toaster. And what was the goal of the protaganists in the very end? To get more of these physical directions!
Sigh. Hard science fiction is not my favorite genre, even when it is done well. This was not done terribly well. I kept hoping something would happen, and I kept reading because I hated to dismiss a book without knowing all it had to say. But in future books, if it isn’t a working relationship between the two of us in twenty pages, I’m going to stop reading it. You can just call me ill-informed, from now on. But the only thing I really got out of this book was that I can say “I’ve read Hal Clement.”
This book indicates to me how not to write science fiction, and also how deft Poul Anderson, James Blish, and even in this instance, Arthur C. Clarke are in combining story with science. Reading this, I kept thinking that this work would have been very useful if given to another writer – say, J.G. Ballard – to use to write a real story.
I’m sorry, Hal, or Mr. Stubbs, as you are known to your students. You’re in the Hall of Fame and this book is on several “Best of” lists, but it would not be on mine. For writing, I think this book has examples in the negative – what not to do.