>Science Fiction: Expedition to Earth

“Expedition to Earth” is a collection of short stories by Arthur C. Clarke. As you may recall, Arthur C. Clarke is the author of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the followup books.  This particular short story collection contains some of his earlier writings – the original publication date is 1953.  I found the stories very entertaining and surprisingly modern. In particular Clarke’s descriptions of inter-planetary space flight and the experience of being is space was portrayed very realistically. Mind you, he wrote this before any spaced flight occurred.

One of the stories, “Superiority”, is a satirical take of a complaint of an admiral who lost a space war and he blames the loss on the constant application of technologically advanced weapons in space combat. Expensive weapons, which do not perform as expected in actual battle conditions. Interestingly the villain of the story is Professor Norden – who leads the military research establishment that invents these new weapons. I suspect that the author was taking pokes at the Norden bombsight which was used in American bombers in World War II and which performed less than perfectly under actual combat conditions.

The final story in this collection is called “The Sentinel”. In this story a group of geologists exploring the Moon discover what appears to be an ancient artifact left by a highly advanced civilization. “The Sentinel” is the story that inspired “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

I you like science fiction I think you would greatly enjoy this little book. I recommend it.


>Non Fiction: “Into the Silent Land”

This book was written by Paul Broks, the neurologist who participated in the documentary about Pat Martino. That was the film that covered Pat’s aneurism, resulting amnesia and the long term effects of the brain surgery.

The book is a collection of essays on patients that Paul Broks has come in contact with as a neurologist. He describes number of cases of people with brain injuries and what effects these have on their personalities. In these chapters the book reminds  me of stories by Oliver Sacks.

Where “Into the Silent Land” differs is in the chapters that consider the nature of consciousness and the nature of “I” (i.e. when you say “I am reading this” – where is the “I”). Broks relies on some dream-like and some purely fictional  chapters to explore these ideas. For example, he has a whole chapter devoted to the “transporter incident” story – where a person is copied and transmitted to Mars, but the machine fails to destroy the “original”.

One of the more interesting chapters of this book discussed Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide”, and his method of working. Stevenson taught himself to dream on purpose to come up with plots for his stories. In fact he wrote about his method. Here is a link to what he wrote.

I started reading this book with no intention of finishing it, but the stories drew me in and in the end I read the whole book.