Book Review: Sunstorm (2005)

Arthur C. Clarke is one of the primary reasons I became a science fiction fan. During the early 1970s, I read Childhood’s End and the incomparable Hugo Award-winning Rendezvous with Rama and one or two collected works. The enjoyment of those books not only led to more of his books but to many, many other authors. I was hooked.

Whether due to age or other reasons, most of Clarke’s recent books have been co-authored, some with adequate results and others not meeting the mark. His latest, Sunstorm, is the follow-up to Time’s Eye, both co-written with award winning author Stephen Baxter. It is one of those SF books you find yourself liking despite knowing you really shouldn’t.

One of the bigger problems is that although billed as a conclusion to Times’ Eye, there are very few ties between the two books and even fewer substantive ones. Instead, Sunstorm is almost a standalone end-of-world tale where the only hope is collaborative human effort on an extraordinary and unimaginable scale. Add to that cliche a few side references that make you go, “C’mon now,” and the invariable plot twists and you have a book that will not rise above the crowd. Still, Clarke and Baxter are sufficiently talented that they keep your interest.

Despite its failings, this book unquestionably has kernels upon which most SF fans can feast. There’s the hard science for those who like that sort of thing and the social issues that have always intrigued me more. More important, the book throws out a variety of ideas and concepts that not only make you ponder but at times make you wish someone would explore in another book. This is serviceable proletarian SF and doesn’t claim to be anything more.

Sometimes I think we’re alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we’re not. In either case the idea is quite staggering.

Arthur C. Clarke

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