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From Arthur C. Clarke, the brilliant mind that brought us 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Stephen Baxter, one of the most cogent SF writers of his generation, comes a novel of a day, not so far in the future, when the barriers of time and distance have suddenly turned to glass.
When a brilliant, driven industrialist harnesses cutting-edge physics to enable people everywhere, at trivial cost, to see one another at all timesaround every corner, through every wallthe result is the sudden and complete abolition of human privacy, forever. Then the same technology proves able to look backward in time as well. The Light of Other Days is a story that will change your view of what it is to be human.
|Publisher:||Tom Doherty Associates|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
ARTHUR C. CLARKE was the most celebrated science fiction author of the twentieth century, the author of more than sixty books, and the winner of all the field's highest honors. He coanchored the Apollo 11, 12, and 15 missions with Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra for CBS. He died in 2008.
STEPHEN BAXTER is the author of many major SF novels. He has won the Philip K. Dick Award, the John W. Campbell Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award, the Lasswitz Award (in Germany), and the Seiun Award (in Japan).
Date of Birth:December 16, 1917
Date of Death:March 19, 2008
Place of Birth:Minehead, Somerset, England
Place of Death:Sri Lanka
Education:1948, King's College, London, first-class honors in Physics and Mathematics
Read an Excerpt
The Light of Other Days
By Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter, Jane Johnson, Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2000 Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
All rights reserved.
The Casimir Engine
A little after dawn, Vitaly Keldysh climbed stiffly into his car, engaged the SmartDrive, and let the car sweep him away from the run-down hotel.
The streets of Leninsk were empty, the road surface cracked, many windows boarded up. He remembered how this place had been at its peak, in the 1970s perhaps: a bustling science city with a population of tens of thousands, with schools, cinemas, a swimming pool, a sports stadium, cafés, restaurants and hotels, even its own TV station.
Still, as he passed the main gateway to the north of the city, there was the old blue sign with its white pointing arrow: TO BAIKONUR, still proclaiming that ancient deceptive name. And still, here at the empty heart of Asia, Russian engineers built spaceships and fired them into the sky.
But, he reflected sadly, not for much longer.
The sun rose at last, and banished the stars: all but one, he saw, the brightest of all. It moved with a leisurely but unnatural speed across the southern sky. It was the ruin of the International Space Station: never completed, abandoned in 2010 after the crash of an aging Space Shuttle. But still the Station drifted around the Earth, an unwelcome guest at a party long over.
The landscape beyond the city was barren. He passed a camel standing patiently at the side of the road, a wizened woman beside it dressed in rags. It was a scene he might have encountered any time in the last thousand years, he thought, as if all the great changes, political and technical and social, that had swept across this land had been for nothing. Which was, perhaps, the reality.
But in the gathering sunlight of this spring dawn, the steppe was green and littered with bright yellow flowers. He wound down his window and tried to detect the meadow fragrance he remembered so well; but his nose, ruined by a lifetime of tobacco, let him down. He felt a stab of sadness, as he always did at this time of year. The grass and flowers would soon be gone: the steppe spring was brief, as tragically brief as life itself.
He reached the range.
It was a place of steel towers pointing to the sky, of enormous concrete mounds. The cosmodrome — far vaster than its western competitors — covered thousands of square kilometers of this empty land. Much of it was abandoned now, of course, and the great gantries were rusting slowly in the dry air, or else had been pulled down for scrap — with or without the consent of the authorities.
But this morning there was much activity around one pad. He could see technicians in their protective suits and orange hats scurrying around the great gantry, like faithful at the feet of some immense god.
A voice floated across the steppe from a speaker tower. Gotovnosty dyesyat minut. Ten minutes and counting.
The walk from the car to the viewing stand, short as it was, tired him greatly. He tried to ignore the hammering of his recalcitrant heart, the prickling of sweat over his neck and brow, his gasping breathlessness, the stiff pain that plagued his arm and neck.
As he took his place those already here greeted him. There were the corpulent, complacent men and women who, in this new Russia, moved seamlessly between legitimate authority and murky underworld; and there were young technicians, like all of the new generations rat-faced with the hunger that had plagued his country since the fall of the Soviet Union.
He accepted their greetings, but was happy to sink into isolated anonymity. The men and women of this hard future cared nothing for him and his memories of a better past.
And nor did they care much for what was about to happen here. All their gossip was of events far away: of Hiram Patterson and his wormholes, his promise to make the Earth itself as transparent as glass.
It was very obvious to Vitaly that he was the oldest person here. The last survivor of the old days, perhaps. That thought gave him a certain sour pleasure.
It was, in fact, almost exactly seventy years since the launch of the first Molniya — "lightning" — in 1965. It might have been seventy days, so vivid were the events in Vitaly's mind, when the young army of scientists, rocket engineers, technicians, laborers, cooks, carpenters and masons had come to this unpromising steppe and — living in huts and tents, alternately baking and freezing, armed with little but their dedication and Korolev's genius — had built and launched mankind's first spaceships.
The design of the Molniya satellites had been utterly ingenious. Korolev's great boosters were incapable of launching a satellite to geosynchronous orbit, that high radius where the station would hover above a fixed point on Earth's surface. So Korolev launched his satellites on elliptical eight-hour trajectories. With such orbits, carefully chosen, three Molniyas could provide coverage for most of the Soviet Union. For decades the U.S.S.R. and then Russia had maintained constellations of Molniyas in their eccentric orbits, providing the great, sprawling country with essential social and economic unity.
Vitaly regarded the Molniya comsats as Korolev's greatest achievement, outshining even the Designer's accomplishments in launching robots and humans into space, touching Mars and Venus, even — so nearly — beating the Americans to the Moon.
But now, perhaps, the need for those marvelous birds was dying at last.
The great launch tower rolled back, and the last power umbilicals fell away, writhing slowly like fat black snakes. The slim form of the booster itself was revealed, a needle shape with the baroque fluting typical of Korolev's antique, marvelous, utterly reliable designs. Although the sun was now high in the sky, the rocket was bathed in brilliant artificial light, wreathed in vapor breathed by the mass of cryogenic fuels in its tanks.
Tri. Dva. Odin. Zashiganiye!
As Kate Manzoni approached the OurWorld campus, she wondered if she had contrived to be a little more than fashionably just-late-enough for this spectacular event, so brightly was the Washington State sky painted by Hiram Patterson's light show.
Small planes crisscrossed the sky, maintaining a layer of (no doubt environmentally friendly) dust on which the lasers painted virtual images of a turning Earth. Every few seconds the globe turned transparent, to reveal the familiar OurWorld corporate logo embedded in its core. It was all utterly tacky, of course, and it only served to obscure the real beauty of the tall, clear night sky.
She opaqued the car's roof, and found afterimages drifting across her vision.
A drone hovered outside the car. It was another Earth globe, slowly spinning, and when it spoke its voice was smooth, utterly synthetic, devoid of emotion. "This way, Ms. Manzoni."
"Just a moment." She whispered, "Search Engine. Mirror."
An image of herself crystallized in the middle of her field of vision, disconcertingly overlaying the spinning drone. She checked her dress front and back, turned on the programmable tattoos that adorned her shoulders, and tucked stray wisps of hair back where they should be. The self-image, synthesized from feeds from the car's cameras and relayed to her retinal implants, was a little grainy and prone to break up into blocky pixels if she moved too quickly, but that was a limitation of her old-fashioned sense-organ implant technology she was prepared to accept. Better she suffer a little fuzziness than let some cack-handed CNS-augment surgeon open up her skull.
When she was ready she dismissed the image and clambered out of the car, as gracefully as she could manage in her ludicrously tight and impractical dress.
OurWorld's campus turned out to be a carpet of neat grass quadrangles separating three-story office buildings, fat, top-heavy boxes of blue glass held up by skinny little beams of reinforced concrete. It was ugly and quaint, 1990s corporate chic. The bottom story of each building was an open car lot, in one of which her car had parked itself.
She joined a river of people that flowed into the campus cafeteria, drones bobbing over their heads.
The cafeteria was a showpiece, a spectacular multilevel glass cylinder built around a chunk of bona fide graffiti-laden Berlin Wall. There was, bizarrely, a stream running right through the middle of the hall, with little stone bridges spanning it. Tonight perhaps a thousand guests milled across the glassy floor, groups of them coalescing and dispersing, a cloud of conversation bubbling around them.
Heads turned toward her, some in recognition, and some — male and female alike — with frankly lustful calculation.
She picked out face after face, repeated shocks of recognition startling her. There were presidents, dictators, royalty, powers in industry and finance, and the usual scattering of celebrities from movies and music and the other arts. She didn't spot President Juarez herself, but several of her cabinet were here. Hiram had gathered quite a crowd for his latest spectacle, she conceded.
Of course she knew she wasn't here herself solely for her glittering journalistic talent or conversational skills, but for her own combination of beauty and the minor celebrity that had followed her exposure of the Wormwood discovery. But that was an angle she'd been happy to exploit herself ever since her big break.
Drones floated overhead, bearing canapés and drinks. She accepted a cocktail. Some of the drones carried images from one or another of Hiram's channels. The images were mostly ignored in the excitement, even the most spectacular — here was one, for example, bearing the image of a space rocket on the point of being launched, evidently from some dusty steppe in Asia — but she couldn't deny that the cumulative effect of all this technology was impressive, as if reinforcing Hiram's famous boast that OurWorld's mission was to inform a planet.
She gravitated toward one of the larger knots of people nearby, trying to see who, or what, was the center of attention. She made out a slim young man with dark hair, a walrus mustache and round glasses, wearing a rather absurd pantomime-soldier uniform of bright lime green with scarlet piping. He seemed to be holding a brass musical instrument, perhaps a euphonium. She recognized him, of course, and as soon as she did so she lost interest. Just a virtual. She began to survey the crowd around him, observing their childlike fascination with this simulacrum of a long-dead, saintly celebrity.
One older man was regarding her a little too closely. His eyes were odd, an unnaturally pale gray. She wondered if he had possession of the new breed of retinal implants that were rumored — by operating at millimeter wavelengths, at which textiles were transparent, and with a little subtle image enhancement — to enable the wearer to see through clothes. He took a tentative step toward her, and orthotic aids, his invisible walking machine, whirred stiffly.
Kate turned away.
"... He's only a virtual, I'm afraid. Our young sergeant over there, that is. Like his three companions, who are likewise scattered around the room. Even my father's grasp doesn't yet extend to resurrecting the dead. But of course you knew that."
The voice in her ear had made her jump. She turned, and found herself looking into the face of a young man: perhaps twenty-five, jet-black hair, a proud Roman nose, a chin with a cleft to die for. His mixed ancestry told in the pale brown of his skin, the heavy black brows over startling, cloudy blue eyes. But his gaze roamed, restlessly, even in these first few seconds of meeting her, as if he had trouble maintaining eye contact.
He said, "You're staring at me."
She came out fighting. "Well, you startled me. Anyhow I know who you are." This was Bobby Patterson, Hiram's only son and heir — and a notorious sexual predator. She wondered how many other unaccompanied women this man had targeted tonight.
"And I know you, Ms. Manzoni. Or can I call you Kate?"
"You may as well. I call your father Hiram, as everyone does, though I've never met him."
"Do you want to? I could arrange it."
"I'm sure you could."
He studied her a little more closely now, evidently enjoying the gentle verbal duel. "You know, I could have guessed you were a journalist — a writer, anyhow. The way you were watching the people reacting to the virtual, rather than the virtual itself ... I saw your pieces on the Wormwood, of course. You made quite a splash."
"Not as much as the real thing will when it hits the Pacific on May 27, 2534 A.D."
He smiled, and his teeth were like rows of pearls. "You intrigue me, Kate Manzoni," he said. "You're accessing the Search Engine right now, aren't you? You're asking it about me."
"No." She was annoyed by the suggestion. "I'm a journalist. I don't need a memory crutch."
"I do, evidently. I remembered your face, your story, but not your name. Are you offended?"
She bristled. "Why should I be? As a matter of fact —"
"As a matter of fact, I smell a little sexual chemistry in the air. Am I right?"
There was a heavy arm around her shoulder, a powerful scent of cheap cologne. It was Hiram Patterson himself: one of the most famous people on the planet.
Bobby grinned and, gently, pushed his father's arm away. "Dad, you're embarrassing me again."
"Oh, bugger that. Life's too short, isn't it?" Hiram's accent bore strong traces of his origins, the long, nasal vowels of Norfolk, England. He was very like his son, but darker, bald with a fringe of wiry black hair around his head; his eyes were intense blue over that prominent family nose, and he grinned easily, showing teeth stained by nicotine. He looked energetic, younger than his late sixties. "Ms. Manzoni, I'm a great admirer of your work. And may I say you look terrific."
"Which is why I'm here, no doubt."
He laughed, pleased. "Well, that too. But I did want to be sure there was one intelligent person in among the air-head politicos and pretty-pretties who crowd out these events. Somebody who would be able to record this moment of history."
"No, you're not," Hiram said bluntly. "You're being ironic. You've heard the buzz about what I'm going to say tonight. You probably even generated some of it yourself. You think I'm a megalomaniac nutcase —"
"I don't think I'd say that. What I see is a man with a new gadget. Hiram, do you really believe a gadget can change the world?"
"But gadgets do, you know! Once it was the wheel, agriculture, iron-making — inventions that took thousands of years to spread around the planet. But now it takes a generation or less. Think about the car, the television. When I was a kid computers were giant walk-in wardrobes served by a priesthood with punch cards. Now we all spend half our lives plugged into SoftScreens. And my gadget is going to top them all. ... Well. You'll have to decide for yourself." He studied Kate. "Enjoy tonight. If this young waster hasn't invited you already, come to dinner, and we'll show you more, as much as you want to see. I mean it. Talk to one of the drones. Now, do excuse me...." Hiram squeezed her shoulders briefly, then began to make his way through the crowd, smiling and waving and glad-handing as he went.
Kate took a deep breath. "I feel as if a bomb just went off."
Bobby laughed. "He does have that effect. By the way —"
"I was going to ask you anyhow before the old fool jumped in. Come have dinner. And maybe we can have a little fun, get to know each other better ..."
As his patter continued, she tuned him out and focused on what she knew about Hiram Patterson and OurWorld.
Hiram Patterson — born Hirdamani Patel — had dragged himself out of impoverished origins in the fen country of eastern England, a land which had now disappeared beneath the encroaching North Sea. He had made his first fortune by using Japanese cloning technologies to manufacture ingredients for traditional medicines once made from the bodies of tigers — whiskers, paws, claws, even bones — and exporting them to Chinese communities around the world. That had gained him notoriety: brickbats for using advanced technology to serve such primitive needs, praise for reducing the pressure on the remaining populations of tigers in India, China, Russia, and Indonesia. (Not that there were any tigers left now anyhow.)
After that Hiram had diversified. He had developed the world's first successful SoftScreen, a flexible image system based on polymer pixels capable of emitting multicolored light. With the success of the SoftScreen Hiram began to grow seriously rich. Soon his corporation, OurWorld, had become a powerhouse in advanced technologies, broadcasting, news, sport and entertainment.
Excerpted from The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter, Jane Johnson, Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Copyright © 2000 Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
One: The Goldfish Bowl,
1: The Casimir Engine,
2: The Mind's Eye,
3: The Wormworks,
5: Virtual Heaven,
6: The Billion-Dollar Pearl,
7: The Wormcam,
9: The Agent,
10 The Guardians,
11: The Brain Stud,
Two: The Eyes of God,
13: Walls of Glass,
14: Light Years,
16: The Water War,
17: The Debunk Machine,
20: Crisis of Faith,
21: Behold the Man,
22: The Verdict,
Three: The Light of Other Days,
23: The Floodlit Stage,
24: Watching Bobby,
26: The Grandmothers,
27: Family History,
28: The Ages of Sisyphus,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In the twenty-first century, Hidamani Patel had escaped the impoverished North Sea that has encroached on the fifty-second state England to make a fortune in the Forty-eight as Hiram Patterson. The successful multi-billionaire built his OurWorld campus on what was once Microsoft back before global warming changed the planet. Now Hiram explains his newest gizmo to journalist Kate Manzoni because of her article on Wormwood and the hit in the Pacific in the twenty-sixth century while Hiram's son Bobby stands by. Hiram has invented a WormCam that uses wormhole technology to open a portal anywhere in the world instantly. Privacy is a thing of the past as a person can see anyone at anytime. The technology soon also applies to seeing what has been as secrets are no more. The underlying premise is brilliant as history's mysteries are open for public consumption on a big humanity altering scale, but also on a personal individual relationship scale. When the story line focuses on the philosophy of what happens to mankind if basic beliefs are shattered, it is an intriguing tale. When the plot tries to turn inward to the impact on the characters, it loses steam ironically in spite of a lot more action as none of the cast matters especially compared to the historical possibilities. Fans of the two authors will enjoy their collaboration, but the prime what if question will be what if the cast felt remorse, guilt and shame for the lies they told their loved ones or for the lies their heroes told the world. Instead they become comic book action heroes who soar as an action-packed thriller; instead of short stories based on major historical events and legends through the ages that would have been enlightening. Harriet Klausner
Although I am an experimental physicist and had to struggle with having to assume that wormholes 1) exist, and 2) could be so easily controlled, I love the overall theme... just what happens to mankind as his privacy is slowly and absolutely lost both in his past and present? As with ANY good science fiction, this book has already inspired a new use of technology. I have built a 'Cloak Rim' which clips on any hat and uses IR LED lights to mask the wearer's face from most digital cameras. (Shoot your remote control at your webcam... you'll get the idea.) I highly recommend the book if only for the privacy issues examined. Big Brother is no longer far behind us. These are extremely important issues. (:
A great book by Stephen Baxter based on an idea of Arthur C. Clark. What if we had wormhole technology and could see the past? What would our world be like if we could go back and see historical events? Cool thoughs, very well written.
Clarke's imagination is, as always, undeniably ingenious, and Baxter puts into the mind images and feelings so vivid you forget you're reading a book. The tale introduces us to an immoral, corrupt and technologically-advanced human race bestowed with every modern marvel conceivable. Then, one day, we all acquire a modern marvel inconceivable- the ability to see everything that goes on everywhere. As if this isn't enough, the wormcam is capable of peering not only into the present, but the past, too (Personally, I think Clarke chose this concept because he likes the idea that one day we may be able to disprove Christianity by direct observation). The story waxes more and more flamboyant and provocative, until it concludes brilliantly in a revelation of mankind's origins, and then, in the very next chapter, its ultimate accomplishment.
This is one of those rare science fiction books that combine hard science fiction with philosophy in a well-paced and entertaining plot. But then, what would you expect when two masters of the field combine their considerable talents? The Light of Other Days revolves around the development of microscopic worm holes, and the resulting ability to ingest light from their surroundings. The enterprising developers soon develop 'WormCams,' and society shutters under a complete loss of privacy. Then, just as people start to come to grips with their new ¿public¿ life, another shock is unleashed. The WormCam¿s developers discover a way to see back in time, hence the book¿s title. The Light of Other days is a wonderful read and the surprise ending is very gratifying. --David Hitchcock, author, VIRTUAL LIFE and PATENT SEARCHING MADE EASY
The book is so refreshing ftom the other Science fiction that is clouding up the libraries.
Really enjoyed this one! Like good sci-fi it takes the ordinary and puts you into that extraordinary perspective. Only disapointment was the end was 'too sweet'. Excellent read.
Amazing does not describe this book. The ideas of Clarke and the image he gives your mind's eye is awesome. WOW! This is the kind of book that makes you think! Get ready for the ending!
Clarke has always been my favorite author, so I guess I am a bit prejudice. But this book is one of his best. No monsters or spaceships, just a great story which must be read by anyone who likes his work, you wont be disappointed, to me he is the best sci-fi writer....ever. Where does he come up with these ideas ? Books lide these from Clake, make me hunger for his next effort... Im waiting for his next masterpiece....hurry.
I just finished reading this book, and all I have to say is, 'Wow'. I'm sure that the other reviews are better written than mine, so I'm gonna make this short. The thing that really caught me off-guard was the ending, I never saw it coming.
Wow, while I have heard a great deal about Arthur C. Clarke due to his famous Space Oddysey, I was keenly disappointed to have read this as my first Clarke book. The story drags at many points, with no real goal or conclusion in mind. The idea of these 'wormcams' is cool enough, along with the hive mind created by these worm cams, but nothing is actually done with this concept aside from a weak explanation of the history of the Earth. I finished this book for the sake of finishing it. I will be moving on to 2001: A Space Oddysey. Hopefully this work of Clarke's will be better than his cooperative title with Baxter.
Consistently Clarke has written cutting edge speculative fiction in the SCI-FI genre. This is such a novel whose theme informs the reader¿s intellect while it inspires his imagination. 3001: The Final Odyssey, a solo work in which he wrote terrific ideas in sketchy outline rather than polished prose aside, I find that most of Clarke¿s co-authored novels are not as entertaining as the ones he has written alone. I write this detracting opinion of his co-authored novels because I want to recommend The Light of Other Days for his ideas and his collaborator¿s writing; in Stephen Baxter, Clarke has found a writer whose style retraces his own found in The City and the Stars and Childhood¿s End. I can barely tell anything about it without giving away the story. In this novel `Science¿ is the star: Physics, Astronomy, Biology, and History. I¿d also guess that the characters are memorable due directly to Baxter¿s effort. Unfortunately the authors were unable to pick just one of the central characters to be the main protagonist, and this weakened the character development. Bobby, the arrogant son, is the primary candidate but Kate, the honest reporter, is far more likable and has the reader¿s sympathy throughout. Granted, the father and the brother could have used much more work. I won¿t give away too much of the plot or theme by mentioning that the last half of the novel is written in the style of Olaf Stapledon¿s Star Maker, a science fiction classic published in 1937. Clarke alludes to this parallel when he names a fictional device after Stapledon. Personally, I was glad to read this as I believe Star Maker is undervalued (most readers lump it together with his Last And First Men ). This novel is no mere sketch of developments sociological or technological. It certainly challenges the reader¿s beliefs by asking him to suspend disbelief to the very end. I use the term `speculative fiction¿ because this is an example of what it can become¿what it should ask of the reader. I could have just as soon labeled it `hard science fiction¿, but this misleads some to think that the complexity of the science will demand a greater background for appreciating the work. I would recommend this novel to any mature reader.
I am a big fan of both Clarke and Baxter, but this novel is not among my favorites of their stories. I saw as very interesting the scientific ideas of the possible uses of wormholes, as well as the social manifestations of these developments. There also were many interesting comments peppered throughout the book. These aspects of the novel seemed like they came from Baxter and Clarke. Yet as a work of fiction I do not think the book succeeds. For one thing, the characters are rather sketchy and unoriginal. Secondly, there is a fair amount of what I consider filler material that does not add to the story. Third, the overall writing style is quite harsh, often with unpleasant language and scenes that in my opinion were unnecessary. In this regard particularly I think this book is not typical of Clarke, at least. But all in all, as a sci-fi story I enjoyed it to a fair degree.
As with most books written by Mr. Baxter you will receive a deep physics lesson with a strong emphasis in quantum mechanics. He blends what we think that we understand about the universe with possibilities. This is worth reading and more than just interesting. If you are looking for monsters and laser beams, keep looking. If you are looking for science fixtion that is both challenging to read and entertaining, you have the correct book.
If you really want to know the extremes of what the future holds. This is not far fetched. With the same far thinking as Space Odessy 2001 this will give you chills. It will be a movie when Dreamworks can figure out how to do the effects. In reality it is not so far off, killer ending.
Drawn out and a wast of space