Continuing the weekly feature of my recommended science-fiction reads I delve deep into my past and one of the books that drew me into the genre. I've read many of Arthur C Clarke's books since and while many are better books than 'Islands in the Sky', they didn't capture my imagination in such an immediate way.
The story is a simple one, a young lad manages to win his way onto a space station. There's nothing complicated here and perhaps that's what drew me in to begin with. It's a very personal story about the lead character's experiences, but it's deceptive. I'm a big fan of big ideas in science fiction, but here the big idea is life in space.
Now in most modern sci-fi operating in space is taken as a given, but even now with the nascent industrialization of space we haven't reached the point were it is a mundane operation. In the world of the story is has become commonplace, but it is seen through young eyes so the wonder of it is more apparent. It also provides a solid introduction to the principles of working in space.
I re-read the book recently and there's always a danger of having the memory of a great read tarnished by years of progress or just more adult appreciation - thankfully this wasn't the case here. It's true that science has progressed a lot in the 60 odd years since it was written, but the fundamentals still apply. Although it is interesting to see what wasn't considered an issue back then, such as the effect of living in space on the human body.
So while it's gained a few flaws over the years it's still an excellent sci-fi read and a great introduction to the genre.
The story of 'Island in the Sky' centers around a young man, who, after brilliantly winning a space-related competition, requests a vacation on a space station as his prize. It is written with Arthur C. Clark's obvious knowledge of science, but moves at a page turning rate throughout the entire narrative. The short novel gives a realistic possibility of work and play in future space, heightened with constant excitement and action. Character development is very good, as are the not-overdone (but still awesome) visual descriptions.
Click here to buy Islands in the Sky from Amazon