BONUS AUDIO: In an exclusive introduction, evolutionary biologist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins explains why he considers The Black Cloud, written by the late astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, to be "one of the greatest works of science fiction ever written".
©1982 Fred Hoyle; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
Grounded hard sci-fi.
The description of the cloud's effects on the earth: sci-fi writers usual stuff up the details (because what they write is usually just fantasy in space) but Hoyle brings his enormous learning and knowledge to bear and the results are awesome.
When space came down to Earth (?)
The Black Cloud is possibly too dry for anyone without a real interest in science, and probably too intellectually demanding for those who just want cliched heroics and explosions every 10 minutes...
As a (retired) scientist, I especially enjoyed the realism of the description of how scientists work and think and interact.
It was also interesting to reflect on scientific leaders are controlled by their funding agencies, and Hoyle's fictional rants against politicians should appeal to a universal audience.
All the primary characters were convincingly portrayed. They were also as interesting and as diverse as real scientists.
Climate science, as known at the time of this book, played a key role in helping earth survive the arrival of the Black Cloud. Interestingly, their research and knowledge soon became highly politicized and was declared secret by the government, reminding me of the Manhattan Project.It was interesting to consider the author's speculations on the nature of highly advanced life forms, and how limited our own minds may be in comparison to more highly evolved life forms.
Like the reader of the introduction, Richard Dawkins, I first read The Black Cloud many years ago. I was fascinated then by the debate over the universe...Steady State (the Hoyle thesis) or the Big Bang, which is now widely accepted. Even today, while the Steady State theory might be out of favour, I still prefer a variation on this, rather than the Big Bang. Its still a fascinating question! Thus the novel is about what might be going on out there in the vastness, and Hoyle's description of how the human race might respond to something quite different to us dropping by is amusing. The book is quaintly dated in some ways, but still worth it, especially if you were around at the time when it was written.
Dawkins' introduction was interesting and established the time frame and scientific context in which the novel was written. It would be very useful for those who are not familiar with the book.The reader ,Jack Klaff, was a bit "prim", that Tony Blair type of British accent, and the accents he gave his non British characters were at times excruciating. (I'm sure his Australian listeners would wince at the Aussie scientist, but perhaps that's just being petty!) Apart from that, it was well done.
I was strongly recommended to read this one, by my husband (astrophysicist) who has read it in 1960s and by Richard Dawkins' page. I do not regret. It is splendid, wonderful and SO full of knowledge - and I lked the strongly atheistic side of the book as well. A wonderful read, much more worth reading than "average" sci-fic. books. But I must adnit, I am a physicist and an atheist.
Interesting to compare the difference in technological level of contemporary science and that of the sixties. And likewise of the similarities of human behaviour and reasoning.
Fred Hoyle has written other books in the same vein. And numerous SF-writers. Arthur C Clarke e.g.
I'm quite interested in Richard Dawkins work, which amplified my interest if I hadn't read Hoyles work in the sixties already. Read a lot of astronomy then.
The compelling logic in the events and the hope of undiscovered resources in Mankind.
Yes. The story is plausible and the characters interesting and with substance
description of development of alien intelligence
no. entire book moving.
I do consider the audio edition better than print. You can experience the emotions associated with the progress of the story that is missed in pure print versions.
Kingsley. He announces his conclusions (appalling as they are) with quiet aplomb. Quite the juxtaposition to the consternation of his fellows in this tale.
Herrick (sp?), american member of the team voiced with the range of emotions one might anticipate give the rapidly changing conditions and conclusions. Nicely done.
Yes. It was realizing that the cloud was a sentient being.
I read this book as a teenager and found this audio version just as good - and it took me back. Because of its time-frame (mid-20th century) some people might find it a little old-fashioned, but the story is plausible. Sir Fred Hoyle's scientific background helps educate while he entertains.... which makes the plot believable.
The story flows well and keep you engaged and the narration is clear and crisp. The characters are well defined by both the writer and the narrator. I was not disappointed in my memory of the original read.
Is it wrong when you want to punch one of the characters? The pompous scientist written in these books that manipulates governments on the belief that he is superior so he is right is why scientists have such a hard time PR-wise....
Overall an interesting book from the distant past of SF.
Hoyle's The Black Cloud is very good science fiction, not boring at all, as some have said, but engaging, interesting and quite plausible. Add to this an interesting introduction by Richard Dawkins and an excellent narration by Jack Klaff and you get an audiobook which is quite close to perfection.
Loved it! In this great book, we are clearly living out the fantasy of the author. Young boys fantasize about being a tough cowboy and saving the damsel from the Indians, or being a fearless spaceman and seeing off aliens. A 42-year-old astronomer?s idea of a fantasy is evidently to receive professional and intellectual kudos from everyone he meets; receive an infinite research budget from the evil government whilst humiliating them at the same time; having casual sex with the belle of the ball and generally having his peers whisper to each other how darned clever he is whenever he walks past them at a terribly important convention where he is the guest speaker. Good for him, I say. If Hoyle wanted his protagonist to be a Christ-like astronomer, walking in a halo of unassailable intellect and having his peers and foes alike trembling in his presence, then that?s his call.
The accents used by the narrator for some of the characters are notable more for their comedic qualities rather than any dramatic accuracy. One eminent American scientists profundities are somewhat undermined from sounding like 'Benny the Ball' from Top Cat; the transient romantic interest is described as "husky", but sounds like she has been long-harbouring a sixty-a-day habit, and two of the British Cabinet members sound like they are struggling to keep hold of their false teeth. Another American is clearly concealing a half-Australian, half-cockney heritage whilst a plot element has the cloud sounding to originate from Cirencester.
The technicalities of the cloud are a bit shaky, such as the propulsion system which I shall not go into here. For most of the book I had images of this gaseous super-organism finally arriving at Earth and starting its great speech to us lesser planet-bound people when, upon realising it was still falling into the Sun, truncating its speech with the words "Oh...bugger!" before rather embarrassingly disappearing forever.
"Academic and dull"
To be honest I found this book a complete let down. Generally a very slow story, overly academic writing filled with tedious, un-engaging characters. I had heard good things about it and was looking forward to a really good plot with strong scientific roots. Unfortunately the science smothered the story.
I've enjoyed a number of other sci-fi titles from around this period, but the lack of humanity in the characters left me cold. Firmly set in the world of academia, it felt very narrow, one dimensional.
It's difficult to be sure how much the story is to blame when I found the narrating not to my taste either. The characters voices were too much, and the pace just too slow.
The premise was good. The science was good too, but it just overwhelmed everything. I got so bored by it I couldn't even finish it. By the time I gave up everyone seemed doomed, and to be honest I really wasn't that bothered it they lived or died!
"The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle"
The real power of this book is in its basic realism and to some extent its nostalgia as the characters and the technology are rooted in the sixties.
The events in the book could all have happened then and Hoyle describes brilliantly how a disaster facing the earth would play out although in our more enlightened times,everyone -not just the scientists and politicians-would be aware of the facts through the media and internet.
Although the characters are considerably wooden,they are clever and believable enough to instruct us in some basic scientific thinking and methodology which keeps the reader interested throughout.
The later parts of the book are a bit silly to say the least but we have already had a good enough trip before then to let this go and anyway the epilogue makes up for any minor mistakes.
The book is beautifully read and the characters brought to life by Jack Klaff who makes all the different accents seem very real.
"What a great surprise!"
Intelligent and engaging.
"An academic fantasy about running the world"
Preposterous end-of-Empire, 1960s English scientist as saviour of the world. The exposure of scientific methods is rewarding but the aspergic, misogynist twit at the center does not make for good literature. Nor does the archaic , class-ridden language. An academic fantasy about how wonderful a Cambridge academic can be - no value placed on people, lives or character. A good demonstration of why scientists should be nowhere near the levers of power. Dawkin's introduction does not make the prose any better but does appreciate the expose of scientific method on the book.
"The best and worst of scientists"
The introduction from Dawkins waxes lyrical about the scientific accuracy of the book and gives a potted history of the author. My complaint is, is it gives away some spoilers. Although Dawkins seems to be holding back in order to avoid giving away more information than he actually does. I'd preferred Dawkins reflect at the end, & reflect in detail. I felt the need to listen back to the introduction again after I had listened to the book.
From a scientific point of view, this book really seems to have got things right. By coincidence after listening to the book I listened to an interview with Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) which describes methods the institute use to make contact with ET.There were allot of similarities with Hoyles book, including the details of radiowave frequencies. I was suprised at these similarities as the book was written in 1957. I didn?t feel the book was too dated although it was amusing to hear of the single ?Electronic Computer?. I was generally able to follow all the science stuff, although there were a few pieces which went above my head. In fact the science bit that I couldn?t understand is the only part of the book where I felt it dragged.
My only criticism of the book is the lack of , for want of a better word, humanity. When human lives are lost, they are described in terms of number of deaths, rather than any sense of personal loss. There is a token paragraph in which a couple of minor characters die but this feels tagged on and is never mentioned again. Also characters seemed happy to be trapped in a certain place because they were relatively safe & no mention of loved ones who apparently left behind.
The main character is the worst stenotype of arrogant scientist. In the book the arrogance is payed off because he often turns out to be right. Others have said that the author based this character on himself this doesn?t say much about him.
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