The best short sci-fi to read this holiday
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Published Monday 4 January 2016 at 12:44am
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arthur c clarke 1953 willpjk.com

HAVE an hour to kill this summer? Check out one of the best and most under-recognised short time travel stories ever written – Arthur C. Clarke’s Time’s Arrow.

Above: Arthur C. Clarke in 1953. Photographer unknown.

Not usually a fan of science fiction? No worries. Clarke’s writing is accessible despite the story first being published in the 1950s, although an unflattering comment about “natives” does not sit well with me at all.

In this quick review I will describe the story’s style without dropping any plot spoilers. I hate spoilers, and the story is too short to justify giving anything away.

Time’s Arrow has stuck with me since I read it a decade ago at 13 years old. Clarke’s writing is lively but not overdone and engrossing without making you feel short changed by the story’s length.

What really stands out is the ending – the reader is allowed to assemble what happened themselves (with heavy guidance, of course) and share in the feelings of the characters reaching the same conclusion.

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Clarke was one of the big names in sci-fi and has been credited with describing or predicting triangulating GPS satellites, the digital and smart watch, the internet, touch screen devices and more. Whether he really was first to think up those inventions will be disputed, but there is no denying his mind was always several steps ahead of contemporary science.

Thoroughly unsurprisingly for a sci-fi author, Clarke’s work is pinned to science and scientific theory. But don’t be afraid – he writes in a way which does not leave readers without physics degrees behind. In every sense, he was a great science communicator.

You need not take my word for the excellence of Time’s Arrow – you can click here to find a free download of the story in PDF format. (Nobody tell Boston College its student resources are indexed by, and fully accessible from Google.)

If you are hungry for a longer time travel sci-fi classic, try H. G. Wells’ celebrated 1895 title The Time Machine. At over 120 years old the language is initially a little harder to understand than Clarke’s, but the distant futures Wells describes are timelessly wonderful. Click here to read The Time Machine for free online.

Disliked both Clarke’s and Wells’ stories? You could always build your own time machine and leave a dissenting review for the past you to read in the comments below.

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Tags: arthur c. clarke h. g. wells history sci-fi science fiction short story time travel time's arrow

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