4.5/5 (Very Good)
This is one of my all time favorite Arthur C. Clarke books. Published in 1955, Earthlight still remains a practically unknown work in Clarke’s massive canon. The minimalistic plot flourishes in the ultra-realistic society of the Moon. There are three elements that make this work stand out.
1. The Plot.
An accountant is sent from Earth to the moon as a spy to root out a spy who is leaking information about Earth’s goals to leach the moon of minerals Earth greatly needs. The novel’s background is the tension between the outer colonies and earth (something explored in length in MANY well known classics to come, Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is the first to come to mind). Clarke manages to maintain the tension throughout. I really like the distant quality of the plot – the main characters have little influence on the central events but rather have their own mostly hidden tensions among each other. This forms a ultra-realistic feeling and immerses you in Clarke’s world.
2. The Descriptions.
Since the accountant has never been to the moon the scientists at the observatory make a point to describe and explain the workings of the colony on the moon in great length. Again, adding to the ultra-realistic tone of the work. Likewise, since Sadler is sent to investigate the inner workings of everyone at the observatory, Clarke describes the more minute activities associated with Moon life which can be very interesting.
3. The external Events/backdrop.
The battle at the end is immensely detailed (although the main characters are not directly involved). The tension results in a immense climax but like in many wars the end is not clear as both sides sense some sort futility in the endeavor. Again, the results of the battle do not deal directly with the main characters but rather their own struggles play out at as a microcosm of the greater interplanetary events.
Arther C. Clarke manages to develop, in a dense 155 pages, an ultra-realistic future with believable characters (perhaps slightly one-dimensional – but then again Clarke is not known for his characterizations), a compelling backdrop, and ultra-realistic day to day events. A top notch effort, sadly, unknown to most sci-fi readers.