Mission Of Gravity

Mission Of Gravity

by Harry Clement Stubbs

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In some ways the main character of Hal Clement?s under-appreciated novel, Mission of Gravity, is not Charles Lackland, the human explorer dispatched to the planet Mesklin to retrieve stranded scientific equipment. Nor is it the small caterpillar-like creature named Barlennan, a native of Mesklin who agrees to help Lackland find and recover the equipment. Rather, the main character is the planet Mesklin itself, a place with utterly unique characteristics that make themselves felt during every interaction and calculation the intrepid Lackland and his guide have to make. Odd, formidable and of serious interest to the human scientists sent to study it, Mesklin has, at its poles, the strongest gravitational pull in the known galaxy. A place of obvious interest to Earth?s scientists with the potential to provide human beings with the most new insights into the space-time continuum since Einstein?s day, Mesklin proves a daunting challenge to the explorers who have to cope with the strange and often trying conditions.

Barlennan and his crew are creatures designed for life under heavy gravitational conditions. The journey to the pole with Lackland, though, first takes them out of their native habitat and across Mesklin?s equator, a region of the ovular planet where the lack of gravity threatens the tiny creatures with getting carried away by the wind and other hazards. Clement is careful to pursue at every turn the implications of the conditions on Mesklin, and his insistence on this gives the novel a certain sense of authenticity, belied only by the fantastic subject matter. Although the novel is, as a result, considered "hard science fiction," it remains refreshingly free of jargon or overly-complicated explanations.

While Mission of Gravity is an interesting read by virtue of its sincere interest in science, it is also a gripping adventure story filled with close encounters and hair-raising plot twists. The planet Mesklin is largely unexplored, so neither Lackland nor the native Barlennan is prepared for what they encounter. Formidable terrain, unfamiliar creatures and new civilizations confront the explorers as they make their way towards their destination. The alliance between Lackland and his guide is itself something of a puzzle as Barlennan, always the opportunist, has an agenda motivating his decision to help the earthling. What that agenda is slowly becomes clear as the novel unfolds.

Mission of Gravity is Clement?s most popular and enduring work

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780795308628
Publisher: RosettaBooks
Publication date: 05/09/2002
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 651,113
File size: 299 KB

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MISSION OF GRAVITY 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
ScifiandScary More than 1 year ago
Mission of Gravity was a fun, imaginative work that holds up well even though its sixty-three years old. Obviously, because of the age, one must be willing to make certain allowances for dated material. That happens, however, far less than you might think. Hal Clement did a great job of creating a world that is – to this day – one of the most interesting worlds we see in science fiction. It’s a bit hard to imagine (I had to look it up to see if anyone could put the shape clearly to me), but the concept is fascinating. A world where gravity varies so dramatically that the only way life could make it would be in a form drastically different from the bipedal one we humans enjoy. The Mesklines are written in such a way that it’s hard to remember that they are actually only several inches long and a few inches high. Most of the time you find yourself not even thinking about their shapes and how gravity plays a part in things. Then the author introduces something or mentions a way of movement that brings home how extremely physically different these characters are. They’re a likable lot, even Barlennan, even though he’s a bit of a rascal. Mission of Gravity is a hard science fiction novel. Clement did his best to present a realistic view of how gravity, physics, etc, work on Mesklin. From a layman’s point of view, he didn’t miss anything. However, I will say it felt like he hammered points home a little too much at times. (On the other hand, if I was a couple of inches high in eight times earth gravity, and aware exactly how quickly even a small drop would kill me… I’d probably not be eager to look over cliffs, jump, or anything like that too!) As much as it is a hard science fiction novel, though, it’s also an adventure story. If you took away the men in the spaceship and replaced the Mesklines with humans on Earth, it would be the tale of a long, strenuous journey. There are encounters with natives, stops for trading/haggling, situations where its Mesklines against Mother Nature, etc. Overall, Mission of Gravity was a good read, but it does get a little laborious at times. You don’t have to have a background in science to understand what’s going on. However, a love of science will probably help you in being a little bit more enamored with the long stretches dealing with those particular details than I was. I would probably be pretty particular about who I recommend this book to, especially when it comes to people who haven’t read much science fiction. It’s interesting and well-imagined, but not a quick and easy read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago