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Glide Path by Arthur C. Clarke
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Glide Path (1963)

by Arthur C. Clarke

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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 |
This book is significant as being the only non-science fiction fiction book that Arthur C. Clarke ever wrote. It was inspired by (and partially, I'm sure) based upon his experience in World War II as a member of the Royal Air Force, using the GCD (Ground Controlled Descent) system to "talk-down" pilots. This is the setting of the story. Though the technology described is not impressive by today's standards (almost 40 years after the book was written, and 60 after the events it fictionalizes), the radar system is gone into in a quite detailed way, and it's obvious that Clarke knows what he's talking about. However, aside from this, there is another reason that this book is significant. Here we actually have Clarke employing a main character (Alan Bishop) as a main character, and developing him. Perhaps this was spurned on by his own personal involvement with the setting of the story, but, whatever the reason for it, this is probably actually the most "human" story that Clarke has ever put out. Those who claim that they can't read Clarke because all of his stories are just complex scientific esoteria that nobody understands wrapped up in a science fiction premise with cardboard cutout carichatures of characters who act merely as set pieces must revise, at least partially, this view of the author after reading this book. We see Clarke develop the character of Bishop. This, indeed, is one of his relatively few books (including among them Imperial Earth, The Songs of Distant Earth, and perhaps The Fountains of Paradise), where a human being is actually the star of the show, and not a machine or an idea. This is a bit of a change of pace for the reader of ACC's fiction, and it is a pleasant diversion. While this is most assuredly not one of his major works, it is an enjoyable read, and an interesting contrast. It balances the technological and human elements of the story rather well. A nice, quick read as well. Pick it up if you can find it.
by VoodooLord7
  pc_bob | Oct 30, 2006 |
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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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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:00 -0400)

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