Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"The Star" (short story): Interesting, if a bit religious

While I don't recall a Clarke's remark to the effect, the conclusion is unmistakable: this story as well as the novel "The Songs of Distant Earth" are essentially variants of Clarke's first published story - "Rescue Party".

All three share an identical doomsday scenario: the star shining on the home of an evolved life form explodes killing all life & planets. In Songs & Rescue Party, it is the Sun shining on earth that explodes; in this story, it is the sun shining on an alien world 3000 light years from earth that exploded 6000 years back.

Full text of this story is available online (link via BestScienceFictionStories), as also an MP3 version (link via SF Signal & Free SF Reader). I haven't seen either of these online version, but quick skimming of text version suggests it's the text I read.

Story summary (spoiler).
Humans have figured out a way of traveling really great distances - at least 3000 light years in less than a human life time. A survey ship comes upon this remnant of a star - a tiny version of its earlier self, surrounded by several concentric shells of dust that are still expanding & are what remains of its outer surface & planets after explosion.

But one outer planet about the distance of Pluto from our Sun survives - barely. Much of its outer ice covering is gone, but a rocky surface remains. That is where our surveyors land. And they find a vast building, & also some remnants of radio signals in rocks.

The building is a huge vault. Apparently, there were intelligent space travelers living on one of the inner worlds that no longer existed, but they had not yet mastered interstellar travel. They had taken extreme pains to stock the vault with the best of their culture & artifacts.

And they had taken a lot of pain in explaining this in a variety of ways to any intelligent aliens that might in future come upon what remained of their world. They did not want all signs of their existence wiped out. Now the humans are burdened & honored with paying homage to them & preserving their relics.

The story is told through a Jesuit priest on board the surveyor - in somewhat religious undertones.

Personally, I found both Songs & Rescue Party better stories. But this is not a bad story.

Collected in.

  1. "The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke"
  2. "More Than One Universe"
  3. David Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer (Ed)'s "The Ascent of Wonder: The Evolution of Hard SF".
See also.
  1. This story is unrelated to H G Wells' "The Star", which inspired Clarke's "The Hammer of God".
  2. "Improving the Neighborhood" is a much shorter variant of this - but earth dies here, & aliens mull over the kind of sentients we were.
  3. All stories with religion as a theme.
External links.
  1. Jeff Vehige discusses this story from a Christian religious perspective. I am not familiar with Christianity, & could neither relate to those nuances, nor considered them important. But others might care.
Fact sheet.
The Star, short story, review
Author: Arthur C Clarke
First published: 1955
Rating: B
Listed in Contento's Top Ten Most Reprinted Stories.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tinkoo, I just recently found your blog and have enjoyed it. It's helped me shape the order in which I'm reading "The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke."

Anyway, I wanted to point out some significance in "The Star" that I think you're overlooking. I believe I read elsewhere on this blog that you're not a Christian. Being familiar with the Christian story of Jesus' birth makes this story more powerful.

In the story of Jesus' birth, three wise men had followed an unusually bright star and believed it was a sign that the messiah was born.

In "The Star," by calculating the time it would take for the light of the supernova to reach earth, the Priest realizes that the star that the wise men followed is the same star that had a supernova and destroyed this civilization. (If you want to read the part of the Christian Bible where it talks about the star, check out Matthew 2:1-12).

Anyway, knowing that gives the story new meaning, don't you think? First time I read it, it gave me cold chills.

Thanks! I enjoy the site!