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Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement

Mission of Gravity (edition 1978)

by Hal Clement

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1,022198,311 (3.86)48
Title:Mission of Gravity
Authors:Hal Clement
Info:Del Rey (1978), Mass Market Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:Science Fiction, $Kindle

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Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement


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English (17)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Mission of Gravity is, I believe, the granddaddy of hard science fiction. It is often mentioned when discussions of hard sf come up. For some reason the label hard sf usually lead me to expect serious moody novels. For no good reason I tend to equate serious science with serious stories, imagine my surprise when Mission of Gravity turns out to be something of a romp, a good one too. Another point worth mentioning is that while the book was first published in 1953 it still holds up well today because the real world science Clement employs is still valid today.

The main attraction of the book for hard sf fans is probably the world building. The planet Mesklin is an “oblate spheroid” in shape resulting in different gravity levels from the poles to equator. The minimum gravity there is still three times that of earth (3g) and the max is all of 700g. The native intelligent race of this planet, the “Mesklinites”, is consequently centipede like in shape to stay close to the ground where a small drop of a foot in a high gravity area can be fatal. Building on this great scenario Hal Clement creates a culture where the concept of flying and throwing is unheard of and all the natives are afraid of height. The science makes all these details very plausible without sacrificing the sense of wonder, enhancing it even.

Another great gimmick of this novel is that the narrative is mostly told from an alien point of view, one specific alien protagonist named Barlennan. A rather roguish, cunning, and likable captain of a raft called The Bree.
character. The Mesklinites remind me a little of the primitive aliens in Le Guin’s [b:The Word for World Is Forest|276767|The Word for World is Forest|Ursula K. Le Guin|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1283091038s/276767.jpg|3256815] and [b:Little Fuzzy|1440148|Little Fuzzy (Fuzzy Sapiens, #1)|H. Beam Piper|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348972417s/1440148.jpg|1876891] by H. Beam Piper. Fortunately they are gifted linguists and adaptable to new concepts and experiences so they are able to work with and learn from the humans. I really love this kind of good natured sf story where species learn to work together for mutual benefits. Stories where hideous aliens are blasted to smithereens by super weapons are fun but a change is as good as a rest.

The plot mainly concerns a mission to retrieve a stranded manmade rocket containing valuable information which accidentally landed on one of the planet’s poles. Barlennan and his crew undertake to retrieve this rocket in exchange for knowledge for the advancement of their people. A lot of exploration and adventure ensues and while the ending is not exactly unpredictable I find it quite pleasing.

Mission of Gravity is a short novel of less than 200 pages in length. The book by itself is out of print but as part of the [b:Heavy Planet The Classic Mesklin Stories|939762|Heavy Planet The Classic Mesklin Stories|Hal Clement|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1312045901s/939762.jpg|924737] omnibus volume which contains a sequel called Star Light, some short stories and an essay; all for the price of one book. An offer you can’t refuse I think. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the volume soon. Great fun and educational, what’s not to like? ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
I've had an itch to read some classic science fiction. Reading old SF novels can be a little hit or miss. Sometimes I choose a random oldie, but I chose this one expecting it to be a hit (it has an excellent reputation) and got a hit. This novel is as old as me, and seems to have held up better. Hal Clement was an author who I didn't read when I was younger. No particular reason, but I was certainly aware of him. I really enjoyed his novel Cycle of Fire that I read a few years ago. On the strength of this one I'll be reading more.

This is hard science fiction in the sense of the subject, but I found the story very readable. It gets a little engineering heavy in spots, but never too much, and the world building of life on an unusual methane planet with hugely different gravities across the surface, and the interaction between humans and the little intelligent centipede-like critters who live on this heavy planet just had me very interested. I was never the least bit bored reading this. Earthmen have limitations on the planet and they need to recover an expensive probe from an area they cannot go. Thus they recruit some locals for the adventure. We are repeatedly made aware that the very helpful locals have something else on the agenda. I really came to like the native sea trading captain who was enlisted by humans for the adventure.

The writing is a little clunky here and there and a bit of that I might attribute to style 60 years ago. Still, this gets a high rating by me for classics in the genre. ( )
  RBeffa | Jun 17, 2015 |
This is an excellent hard sci-fi novel. His descriptions of the high-gravity world and its inhabitants are detailed, fascinating, and believable. The interactions between the human protagonist and his alien contact on the extraterrestrial planet will keep you constantly puzzling about their true intentions. ( )
  cliffhays | Dec 27, 2013 |
Romanzo molto interessante, non tanto per la trama, abbastanza semplice e lineare, ma per la "costruzione" della fisica che regola il pianeta in cui si svolge l'azione.
Particolarmente interessante in questa edizione è l'intervento finale dell'autore che descrive i passi con cui ha creato Mesklin, anche perchè fa capire lo sforzo scientifico-intellettuale necessario per scrivere fantascienza di qualità. ( )
  Saretta.L | Mar 31, 2013 |
This was a feast and a treat for my inner science nerd. Scientists from earth have sent an enormously expensive probe to gather unique data from near the pole of a tremendously high gravity planet. They have high hopes that this data will help them solve a number of thorny scientific problems and provide the next great leap forward in technological advancement. Unfortunately, the probe has malfunctioned, and although they know it completed the data gather, and can see that its there, and intact, its not coming back. No one can go repair it or collect the data from it because humans can only survive at the equator of this planet. When they travel into the higher latitudes the gravity is too much for them and anyone who tried to travel to the pole would implode before he got there.

Fortunately, the higher latitudes are inhabited. By intelligent foot and a half long lobster/caterpiller creatures who are adapted to the high gravity and perfectly capable of retrieving the probe. If they can be persuaded to travel the thousands of miles over unknown territory through hurricanes and floods and encounter previously undiscovered beasts and civilizations. Luckily the Earthers manage to find a flotilla of traders with a strong sense of adventure who are willing to take on the mad task.

The rest of the book is the joint exploration and trade mission of the lobster creatures, with much advice and kibbitzing from the scientist liason assigned to work with them via radio. A lot of very geeky fun can be had reading the attempts of the two species to understand one another and strategize as the creatures travel along the route to the probe. I found the creatures to be charming, and the ways both parties had to work through mutual incomprehension due to the very different physical laws of their two worlds was often very funny in a geeky sort of a way. I also loved the goodwill with which these very different creatures tried to work together and understand each other.

This is a very specific kind of book however. If you are not a person who likes trying to understand how a radio works, or why light bends or how having methane seas would affect buoyancy, this may not be for you. For me, it was great fun. ( )
1 vote bunwat | Mar 30, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hal Clementprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adamowicz, AleksandraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Arno, TomTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Borbás, MáriaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cherryh, C.J.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Conquest, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
DiFate, VincentCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Emshwiller, EdCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Enqvist, KariTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gleeson, TonyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gleeson, TonyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehr, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rekunen, VeikkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schoenherr, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tanguy, YvesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valla, RiccardoIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Van Dongen, H.R.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wood, Wallace A.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zwierd, ErikCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345270924, Mass Market Paperback)

For a profit -- and adventure -- Barlennan would sail thousands of miles across uncharted waters, into regions where gravity itself played strange tricks. He would dare the perils of strange tribes and stranger creatures -- even dicker with those strange aliens from beyond the skies, though the concept of another world was unknown to the inhabitants of the disk-shaped planet of Mesklin.
But in spite of the incredible technology of the strangers and without regard for their enormous size, Barlennan had the notion of turning the deal to an unsuspected advantage for himself . . . all in all a considerable enterprise for a being very much resembling a fifteen-inch caterpillar!
This book also contains Hal Clement's classic article "Whiligig World."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:18 -0400)

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