Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"Transience" (short story): Good prose, but ...

This must be among the few somewhat confused stories by Clarke.

This doomsday story talks of earth's destruction, along with that of rest of solar system, & the coming & going of man without the slightest effects on the universe in the long run. That is theme behind the title.

Story summary (spoiler).
Of the four parts in the story, first is by far the most interesting. Tentative exploration of the world by a child who could have been the son of Moon Watcher in "2001 A Space Odyssey" - at the down of human history.

For the most part, it is not a sad story. For, the story is told through 3 young children, each playing alone on the same beach, but across vast gulfs of time. First is the child from the down of humanity. Second is a modern human child. Third is the child of among the last people to leave earth - for some unknown & safer destination.

There is not much given by the way of explanation as to why this doomsday is coming. Two pieces of news are offered:

  • Solar system has moved close to the center of galaxy, from it familiar position far in one of the arms of the spiral. Why? Don't ask me.
  • "Dark Nebula", whatever that is, is slowly creeping towards solar system. Or may be it is the other way around. Anyway, the two are about to meet. Since nebulae are where the new stars are born, our solar system will apparently become raw material from which the mother nature will shape new worlds eons hence.
I recall an Asimov novel where humans colonize a star system inside a nebula - to hide things from mainstream humanity. How come one nebula is so benign, & other so dangerous? Don't ask me.

I liked the part where the world is seen through the eyes of the first child. Other two are rather average. End is decidedly boring.

Fact sheet.
Transience, short story, review
Author: Arthur C Clarke
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: B

The story appears in the following collections.
  1. "The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke"
  2. "More Than One Universe"

1 comment:

Michael Khan said...

Spoilers ahead!

In terms of science and logic, this short story definitely is a bit out of whack.

I see it as a poetic essay rather than a story with a scientific meaning. And it that respect, it packs some punch. Right up to the plaintive last sentence, which I see as the perfect way to end a story.