Clarke was one of my favourite sci-fi writers when I was a wee lad, and reading this recommendation from Llew has reminded me why I enjoyed his books so much.
This novella is two stories back to back, and they pose a strange contrast while also presenting a very similar theme.
The Lion of Comarre is a strangely naive story about a young man who defies convention and journeys in search of a lost city, Comarre, and befriending a lion along the way. Meanwhile, Against the Fall of Night is a story of incredible depth that also features a young man striking out past convention to discover something off limits.
The theme of a humanity that has reached an impasse and refuses to collectively develop is an interesting one, and all the more surprising considering that Clarke is writing in 1946! What’s fascinating for instance is Clarke writing about super-minds and hyper-intelligent machines when computers were still top-secret devices held in military laboratories…
Clarke has always been an object of fascination for me, because his writing is both clear, concise and alarmingly imaginative. While many contemporary scifi writers struggle to generate dramatically new ideas, Clarke seems to have a gift for extrapolation of contemporary ideas into genuinely unknown territory.
Both novella and novel in this one volume speak loudly to the human desire for constant progress, a subject that many writers seem to take for granted. This creates a tension between the need for security many people routinely express, and the want for exploration that seems to be such an ingrained facet of human nature.
Against the Fall of Night in particular is a great read that, while suffering a peculiar brevity, is extremely rich in imagination and foresight.
A recommended read for buffs of historical scifi writers. Just skip Clarke’s atrocious later books like 3001 (a turgid waste of paper), and go straight back to this old classic.