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Cycle of fire by Hal Clement

Cycle of fire (original 1957; edition 1957)

by Hal Clement

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251545,664 (3.66)13
Title:Cycle of fire
Authors:Hal Clement
Info:New York, Ballantine Books [1957]
Collections:Your library, 75 Books in 2012
Tags:sf classic

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Cycle of Fire by Hal Clement (Author) (1957)



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Nils is a teenage cadet abandoned for dead by his space ship crew after an accident on the planet Abyorman. Dar is transporting books to the Teachers at the Ice Ramparts, knowledge gathered during his life to be transmitted before his predetermined death, when his glider crashes. The two meet as both are attempting to survive on an expanse of desert. Nils assumes that Dar, who is near death from dehydration, must be an alien unfamiliar with the planet. Dar assumes that Nils, who has been sustained by a ubiquitous cactus-like plant, must be a resident of this region of the planet. Initially they cannot communicate verbally, but within mere pages of the continued trek toward the Ice Ramparts, Nils has adopted Dar’s language on the assumption that he will never leave the planet, understanding and speaking complete sentences minus the occasional crucial word. A few things are clarified. Nils puzzles out the arrangement of a planet with two suns, while becoming increasingly fond of Dar and sad about his anticipated death. Along the way, Nils and Dar discover an abandoned city with an electrical infrastructure, and are escorted to a disembodied voice that communicates by radio. Then the space ship comes to the intellectual rescue, returning to the planet with geologists and biologists and astronomers who rather rapidly explore and analyze the life cycle, of both the planet and its creatures. Nils and Dar are kind of sweet, and the planet is a geeky curiosity, but neither relationships nor science are all that strongly developed, and the style is skewed more toward description than drama.
  qebo | Feb 15, 2015 |
Cycle of Fire might be my favorite so far - lots of mystery and suspense, an unexpected friendship. In classic Clement fashion everyone is so reasonable they don't seem quite like the human beings I know, but then, these are space-going humans a good deal in the future and I can hope we might evolve to be better thinkers. This one struggles, at the end, with a moral dilemma too, which is a development, over whether this complex alien 'race' might not constitute a threat to human hegemony in the universe. Lots of interesting stuff.

Favorite quote: "Human beings have a strong tendency to cling to whatever hypothesis they may evolve to explain some new situation." Understatement?

I kept thinking of the Brian Aldiss Helliconia series where two very very different humanoids share a planet with similarly shifting hot/cold conditions. ( )
  sibyx | Dec 21, 2012 |
I was not expecting much from this book, written in 1957, other than some light entertainment. Instead I was caught up in the story from page 1. With the cover tagline "Each was a stranger to the other but who was the alien?" and the blurb on the back I thought I had a story that sounded like an early version of Barry Longyear's classic "Enemy Mine". This was more than that similarity however. Quite different. A human teenage boy is stranded on a planet in a somewhat inhospitable area where one of the residents, non-human, has crashed his aircraft on a long trip. The two join forces to survive and make a long perilous journey, and they learn about each other in the process. We the readers also learn a lot about the interesting planet Abyorman that has a binary star and an unusual orbit and seasons and culture. It reads sort of like a good Heinlein juvenile such as "Red Planet", only smarter.

There is a big central mystery to the book about the various inhabitants of the planet, their lifecycle and abandoned cities. I think this was drawn out a bit too much and the initial momentum of the story seemed to bog down and to my mind kind of kept this from being a really good book, rather than just a very good one. Still, for a mid-50's book this seems like a much better than average story. The ending had a bit of a twist to it and what was telegraphed was only part of the mystery. ( )
  RBeffa | Aug 12, 2012 |
Sort of like the movie Enemy Mine, without the enemy part. It looks like it was sold as a YA novel.

A 16 year old space explorer is marooned on the planet of Abyormen -a planet circling a dwarf star which in turn circles a blue giant. Whilst struggling to survive, he sees an alien in an air glider crash land. The two join up to reach the cooler polar region.

I liked this as much as Mission of Gravity and The Nitrogen Fix. Some might find the novel's concluding chapters a little too much of an info dump, but the ideas are wild and the conclusion is moving. Clement is often accused of being too much about the science and the worlds he creates, but I think this is a very effective character drama-a great alien buddy story. ( )
1 vote arthurfrayn | Nov 4, 2007 |
My copy is an ex-Boots lending library. Anyone else remember it?
  Gateaupain | Jul 26, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Clement, HalAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morrow, GrayCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nagel, HeinzTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, Richard M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Considering the general nature of a lava field the glider had no business looking as sound as it did.
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