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Imperial Earth

I'm also re-reading this 1976 novel by Clarke. (I read both back in high school, courtesy of a rather well-stocked school library; started this one again in Portland at Jennie's, but just checked it out to finish.) I like this one more, though I'd be hard pressed to say why; something about the tone I think, which I'm not well-equipped to analyze. Or maybe I just have more positive associations, from past discussions. It's closer to our time: hip computers; a ship's library with millions of books and movies (though only room for 10; no room consoles?) And just now, Duncan's MiniSec... though as Clarke gets into details, the details age. At first it sounds like a Blackberry, with 50 keys (and multipurpose, depending on mode) but perhaps with a smaller screen, showing 3-line definitions of words. It can talk to bigger consoles optically, at megabits per second... It can function as a speech recorder/audio diary, which I haven't heard about for our smartphones and PDAs, and Clarke sheds a paragraph on security, with Duncan choosing a password.

It's 2276, by the way; Duncan is visiting Earth for the US's quincentennial from the Declaration of Independence.

There's some pointed notes about race: Duncan, surnamed Makenzie, is black, unlike the human norm which is tending to "the same shade of off white" (Clarke likes a brown future for humanity, if I recall works like 2061 or 3001 correctly; he seems to have had trouble with Mendelian genetics.) Sexuality is also freer; Duncan and his rival are both bi, and Duncan jokes about being thought to be on a late night date with the male engineer of the ship to Earth. At first glance it seems like everyone's bi now, and at least they're not prejudiced about it.

Unlike Earthlight, and most other SF, Earth is still king in population and cultural weight, and probably scientific development. No useless teeming billions here. Actually, no billions: Earth's population has dropped to half a billion. Somehow people have managed to colonize several planets at the same time.

Chinese has left its imprint on the English of Earth, in vocabulary and sing-song tones.

Titan is a petrostate, of sorts; it ships hydrogen into the inner system, mostly for use as reaction mass. Only Earth has much in the inner system, and Earth has expensive gravity.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
februaryfour
Apr. 21st, 2010 05:20 am (UTC)
It can talk to bigger consoles optically, at megabits per second...

Sounds like the venerable IR (infrared) needs a speed update!

It can function as a speech recorder/audio diary, which I haven't heard about for our smartphones and PDAs

Japan's phones have voice memos; the first phone I ever got, I tried using it, but I ended up needing to transcribe my memos and gave up.
dubaiwalla
Apr. 21st, 2010 05:43 am (UTC)
It's 2276, by the way; Duncan is visiting Earth for the US's sesquicentennial.
I think you'll find this is long past.
mindstalk
Apr. 21st, 2010 05:45 am (UTC)
Thanks.
heron61
Apr. 21st, 2010 06:51 am (UTC)
It can function as a speech recorder/audio diary, which I haven't heard about for our smartphones and PDAs,

My Nokia n82 just barely a smartphone has a voice recorder and my 2003 Sony Clie PDA also had one. I never used them, but they are there.

I liked Imperial Earth - it feels a little bit dated now, although if by some miracle Moore's Law screeched to a near total halt by or before 2020, it wouldn't. However, other than electronics (which is admittedly a minor point, given that it didn't do horribly) it still feels like good SF and avoids pretty much all the annoying cliches of 50s-70s SF. Not one of Clarke's really impressive works (I'd say those are definitely The City and the Stars, Childhood's End, and maybe The Deep Range and 2001), but very good. In any case, if you liked Imperial Earth, I also recommend The Songs of Distant Earth (the 1986 novel, expanded from the short story), which had a similar feel.
dsgood
Apr. 21st, 2010 07:53 am (UTC)
Not everyone is bi; there are perverted heterosexuals and homosexuals. These insane people are kept isolated.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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