#15: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
This novel got off to a slow, plodding pace. Then it kept going at a slow, plodding pace.
That is not to say that the plot was boring; it may just be that I find Dickens’ style of writing excessive or unmoving. Regardless, once I forced myself to speed through the novel (by skimming superfluous lines), I appreciated it much more.
The novel follows the trials and fortunes of Pip, a poor boy raised to ‘Great Expectations’ by the benevolence of a mysterious benefactor. Pip is quickly swept up by the new world his newfound wealth has uncovered; he dresses, studies, and parties like a gentleman of London. He pursues the affections of Estella, herself groomed to charm and break the hearts of gentlemen. Throughout the novel, Pip is resolute in his belief in the true identity of his benefactor; of course, we the readers know that a twist is imminent. When it does come, however, it unfolds in quite an unexpected fashion – my favorite part of the novel.
#16: Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
I thoroughly enjoyed my previous Clarke story, so I was hoping for more of the same with this book.
It was even better.
Enigmatic aliens, called the Overlords, arrive over Earth in peace. They guide humanity to a new golden age of prosperity, all the while remaining cryptic with their true intentions. The book follows a changing cast as the story is told from the first arrival of the Overlords to their departure; a span of sixty years.
All the sci-fi books you’ve read, all the tropes you know of will not help you here. You build up predictions for the Overlords’ motives, then when the final reveal arrives, all your expectations are smashed into pieces with a resolution that is so sad, so hopeless, so melancholic, that you must question humanity and its place in the universe.
Which is what any great sci-fi novel should do.
#17: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
It’s a toss up between this and Childhood’s End for my favorite of this batch; The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a more involving read but doesn’t evoke the same level of emotion.
At its core, it’s a story about nationalism and revolution; the main difference being that the nation undergoing genesis is the independent state of Luna (the moon). Heinlein placed great effort and care into building a deep background for the history, engineering, and social structure of the colonies on Luna. Like Australia at its colonization, most of the inhabitants of Luna are convicts or descendants of convicts. Other references to historical events (especially revolutionary events, like the American Revolution) are littered throughout the book; even more amusingly, some events are told inaccurately by our charming Loonies (what they call themselves).
The main character, Manuel Garcia “Mannie” O’Kelly-Davis, is a humble man who speaks (slightly) broken English with a Russian bent; as such, the entire novel is narrated in that way, which only added to its uniqueness. In true Heinlein fashion, an A.I. (Mycroft, or Mike) plays a significant role as well. Along with Wyoming Knott-Davis and Professor Bernardo de la Paz, they inadvertently find themselves at the head of the revolution, struggling to prepare for the day the nations of Earth bring their might to bear on the upstarts on the Moon.
Fully recommended if you like sci-fi or are intrigued by history, revolutions, libertarianism, lunar colonization, or sociology.