This was my first time reading any of Arthur C. Clarke’s work, and I started the book without knowing what the story was about. When I read a well-known classic, I expect to find familiar plot elements that I’ve seen in more modern works. In this case, I don’t think I’ve encountered a story quite like this, although I’m sure there are some out there somewhere.
The first chapter did seem like a very familiar story. In that short chapter we learn that the U.S. and Russia are having a space race, each only weeks away from launching ships to explore our own galaxy. Before the chapter is over, both countries lose the space race when a fleet of alien ships suddenly shows up and takes position over all the major countries of Earth.
So that sounds like a story that’s been done to death, but it doesn’t go in the direction you would probably expect. Despite being more unique than I expected, my interest fluctuated drastically throughout the book. There were story elements I was very interested in, and there were times when I was fully engaged in trying to guess explanations for certain things, but there were many other times when it was a struggle to push through.
This is a far more plot-driven story than character-driven. In some cases the characters weren’t very likeable, and in other cases we just didn’t get into their heads deeply enough to really understand them. The story took a rather bizarre turn that I didn’t care for as it approached the end. From that point, it was rather bleak and disturbing. The writing came across as a little stilted to me, not just the dialogue but the narrative as well. It wasn’t drastically so, and it’s hard to put my finger on the specific reasons I felt that way. I don’t think it was the age of the book, because I’ve read other books from around this time period without having the same impression.
I’ll likely try some more of Clarke’s work in the future. I already have a copy of Rendevous with Rama, so that’s likely the next one I’ll try once I decide to cycle back to this author.