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Glide Path by Arthur C. Clarke

Glide Path (1963)

by Arthur C. Clarke

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This is one of Arthur C Clarke's earliest novels, and his only one that isn't science fiction. It draws heavily on Clarke's own experiences in the R.A.F during the Second World War. From his teenage years he had been obsessed with radio transmission and he was able to put this to good use in his role as Scientific Officer at a number of airbases supporting the maintenance and operation of their radar installations.

Even this early in his career, Clarke is already showing signs of his facility as a storyteller. His protagonist, Alan Bishop, finds himself transferred to an airbase in Cornwall where he encounters the ultra-secret Ground Controlled Descent system, a development from the early radar machines which would enable ground-based staff to 'talk down' pilots returning from missions in poor weather of limited visibility. Clarke captures the life of the airbase vividly - Bishop's war is not one fraught with excitement. Instead, he finds himself working hard, with limited opportunity to relax.

There are, though, some humorous vignettes. Bishop finds himself on the fringes of a pale imitation of a house of ill repute just as it is being raided by the police, though they are actually there to investigate allegations of hoarding of rationed food (a cardinal sin during Britain's darkest war privations).

While not a work of science fiction, there is a fair amount of science hovering in the background, but as ever Clarke is careful not to frighten the layman. This is not the most memorable of his books, and it does now seem rather dated, but it still offers a very enjoyable read. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Sep 14, 2015 |
Mr. Clarke is a master of explaining technical things to a layman, which explains his enduring popularity. That, and he writes great SF. Glide path is about two things; first, the development of advanced tracking radar to guide WWII planes safely down to the runway, second, it chronicles Alan Bishop's growth from a timid radar technician in the RAF into a Lieutenant in command of an airbase developing a very advanced radar system, of which parts are still in use today. The focus is really on the original Mark I that Bishop worked on and how he was more attached to it than his own family. All in all, a pretty good, and pretty quick read, perfect for those times when you are eagerly anticipating a package of books, one of which is to be immediately devoured, and the shipment is late. This was also one of the rare books where chapter 1 actually starts on page 1 and the text ran neatly through to page 200.

Most people know, but I'll throw in here that Clarke was a player in the development of radar, this book is a fictional 'memoir' of sorts. He also came up with the idea of geo-synchronous satellites (in an orbit matching the earth, holding the satellite in exactly the same space in the sky) as a device for an alien civilization to instantly communicate with any point on their planet. These are called Clarke Orbits and the band of satellites up in near space is referred to as the Clarke Belt. He had retired from a life as a prominent scientist to relax in Sri Lanka and write. ( )
  DirtPriest | Sep 10, 2010 |
This is often described as Clarke's non-sf novel, but it has a very similar feel to some of his hard sf. There is the same world building and sense of wonder inspired by science -- but the world he brings to life here was real and recent history. For this novel is a fictionalised account of the development of Ground Control Approach radar during the second world war, and Clarke draws upon his own experience of working on the project to safely talk down aircraft by radar.

It might sound dry, but it isn't. Clarke does a fine job on showing both the the technology, and the people who created the technology, with the interplay between different personalities, and the little and large incidents that make up life in a developmental project. The main character's not always that likeable a person, but in a way that makes him a believable viewpoint character rather than a stock hero. There's plenty of dramatic tension, and lighter moments as well, with both clearly being drawn at least in part from Clarke's own experiences. Glide Path is well worth a read for both sf readers and WW2 History buffs. ( )
  JulesJones | Jan 2, 2010 |
An interesting look into the pioneers of radar talk down systems for night flying bombers during WWII, based somewhat on Clarke's own experiences. ( )
  sf_addict | Apr 11, 2008 |
This is a quite good novel about the early days of radar in WWII, concerning the efforts of a group of scientists, flyers and servicemen to perfect a radar talk-down system for planes. Sounds like dry stuff, but Clarke makes it anything but. Moreover, this is an area he knows intimately, and his gift for making scientific intricacies accessible to the layman shines through clearly here. ( )
  burnit99 | Jan 4, 2007 |
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To Luis Alvarez, George Comstock

Richard Gray, and all who worked on AN/MPN–I XE—

wherever they may be.
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Flying Officer Alan Bishop found it singularly peaceful on this tiny metal platform a hundred feet above the North Sea.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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From back cover: From manned spaceflight and the malevolent reign of computer Hal in 2001, we turn back to Mark I, the entirely real and highly capricious radar system that saved more than one flier's life before it was relegated to the machine graveyard of flying history. From GSD headquarters to Moonbase and the stars is the journey of mankind, and Arthur C. Clarke remains the expert in evoking the excitement of discovery, whether it be discoveries past or those yet undreamed.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743475313, Paperback)

During World War II, as an RAF officer, Arthur C. Clarke was in charge of the first radar 'talk-down' equipment, the Ground Controlled Approach, during its experimental trials. His novel GLIDE PATH is based on this work

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:04 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

During World War II, as an RAF officer, Arthur C. Clarke was in charge of the first radar "talk-down" equipment, the Ground Controlled Approach, during its experimental trials. His novel Glide Path is based on this work.

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