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The Light of Other Days (2000)

by Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter

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1,574249,380 (3.69)27
The Light of Other Days tells the tale of what happens when a brilliant, driven industrialist harnesses the cutting edge of quantum physics to enable people everywhere, at trivial cost, to see one another at all times: around every corner, through every wall, into everyone's most private, hidden, and even intimate moments. It amounts to the sudden and complete abolition of human privacy - forever.Then, as society reels, the same technology proves able to look backwards in time as well. Nothing can prepare us for what this means. It is a fundamental change in the terms of the human condition.… (more)
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English (20)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Clarke's second last book. In the Afterword the authors mention that there's a long history of time-viewer stories. They mention a couple, including Bob Shaw's, from which they took their title. Oddly they do not mention Asimov's The Dead Past which is the most closely related thematically to the events and concerns of over half of this novel.

As would be expected from these authors, this is hard-core what-if SF. What are all the applications and ramifications of a technology that allows seeing (but not hearing) anything that is or has happened, no matter where or how far back. The book slows down frequently for pages of description about this, told outside the story arcs of the main characters. The pace of development of the technology, from a proof of concept requiring a roomful of a equipment to portable in-the-skull devices makes the evolution of computers appear positively glacial.

The book is a reasonable cap to themes Clarke explored in Childhood's End, and an interesting precursor to the Stapledonian themes Baxter would (over-)expand in the Manifold trilogy and the Long Earth pentalogy. ("Stapledonians" are introduced as a concept late in the book.)

Recommended if you like either author, a bit more so if you like both. ( )
1 vote ChrisRiesbeck | Jul 25, 2021 |
Flipping between 3 stars and 4 stars because although it was an enjoyable read, the ending was rushed. Towards the end it seemed as though the authors just wanted to throw in some crazy (but cool) scientific and anthropological theories with no thought as to how it would fit in with the rest of the story.

The rest of the book offered a less glamourous, but poignant view on past-viewing (a non-interactive version of time travel). I particularly liked the sensitive, but touching exposition of Christ's life, and the fact that some historical mysteries are best left buried. ( )
  meerapatel | Dec 29, 2020 |
Not what I expected, at the end it veers off into something reminiscent of "Last and First Men" by Stapledon. Still, the remote viewing idea is gripping and explored from many angles (maybe dual authorship helps). And where other authors would be vague when writing about the unknowable past with such authority I'm glad these two didn't hold back - there's Jesus visiting the UK, princess Diana murdered by the shadowy organisation of misogynistic men who will not allow women to gain prominence, sentient knife wielding trilobites. It's as if the rest of the book had been just an excuse for these two to have some fun with these historical "discoveries". Well, I enjoyed it too. ( )
  Paul_S | Dec 23, 2020 |
Interesting and quick read, but not as good as I expected from these two top authors. Development of advanced technology serves as the centerpiece of the book, but it does so at the expense of character and plot development. The last quarter of the book seems to serve as a platform for the authors' views about how life developed on Earth. It's interesting, but only marginally relevant to the early story line. ( )
  rondoctor | Jan 13, 2020 |
Clarke has written better books than this one, and I suppose Baxter has too. I just couldn't stick with it, and skipped to the end. Funny, I've read books written earlier, and they haven't felt particularly dated, but this one did. It's okay. ( )
  Lyndatrue | Dec 10, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Clarke, Arthur C.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baxter, Stephenmain authorall editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Is it not possible--I often wonder--that things we have felt with great intensity have an experience independent of our minds; are in fact still in existenace? And if so, will it not be possible, in time, that some device will be invented by which we can tap tehm? . . . Instead of remembering here a scene and there a sound, I shall fit a plug into the wall; and listen in to the past . . .
--Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)
We . . . know how cruel the truth often is, and we wonder whether delusion is not more consoling.
--Henri Poincare (1854-1912)
Dedication
To Bob Shaw
First words
Bobby could see the Earth, complete and serene, within its cage of silver light.
--Prologue
Who was to blame? For three days Alveron's thoughts had come back to that question. A creature of a less civilized or a less sensitive race would never have let it tortue his mind.
A little after sawn, Vitaly Keldysh climbed stiffly into his care, engaged the SmartDrive, and let the car sweep him away from the run-down hotel.
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The Light of Other Days tells the tale of what happens when a brilliant, driven industrialist harnesses the cutting edge of quantum physics to enable people everywhere, at trivial cost, to see one another at all times: around every corner, through every wall, into everyone's most private, hidden, and even intimate moments. It amounts to the sudden and complete abolition of human privacy - forever.Then, as society reels, the same technology proves able to look backwards in time as well. Nothing can prepare us for what this means. It is a fundamental change in the terms of the human condition.

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Book description
A classic science-fiction short story by Clarke about a Federation of aliens sent to investigate an endangered Earth.
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