Tales of Ten Worlds
(Gollancz, £5.99, 245 pages, paperback, first published 1963,
this edition published 11 September 2003.)
Another Arthur C Clarke anthology kindly reprinted by Gollancz, Tales
of Ten Worlds is more of a mixed bag than its forebears.
The Other Side of the Sky left off. Of these three,
I'd say "Dog Star" is the best, but they all cover ground that is by
now rather familiar. There's also a stray Tale From the White Hart in
"Let There Be Light", a (ahem) light-hearted story of murder in the
astronomical community, which fares a lot better; and "The Road to the
Sea", a 1950 piece curiously left out of Clarke's earlier collections.
"The Road to the Sea", a piece of far-future whimsy, and "Death and
the Senator", in which a politician reaps the penalty for opposing NASA
funding (take that, Washington!), both suffer from the same problems:
the length-to-content ratio is a little too high, and although both
are fine mood/character pieces, they lack a satisfying ending.
a touch of the old stuff in "Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Orbiting ...
" (not one of Clarke's best titles ... ), "Who's There?" and "Dog Star",
three slice-of-life stories that would seem to follow on where the Moonbase/satellite
You can't call an anthology Tales of Ten Worlds without including
some space opera. Step forward, "Into the Comet", an entertaining yarn
of astronauts going back to the classroom when their navigational computer
breaks down and leaves them stranded. Venus makes an appearance in "Before
Eden", while "Summertime on Icarus" sees its hero surviving against
the odds on an asteroid inside Mercury's orbit; despite the high-temperature
locales, however, neither story really sizzles. And "Trouble with Time",
the obligatory Martian story, is simply disappointing. Somewhere in
the middle is "Saturn Rising", whose first half is transparently autobiographical
and whose second half is an amusing tale of free enterprise in the space
There's real fun, though, to be had in the collection's terrestrial
stories. In "I Remember Babylon", Clarke cheekily casts himself as the
lead in a sensationalist follow-up to his series of communications satellite
stories. "Hate" is a slow starter but a long burner, a piece that's
strong on character and ending, and one that would have made an excellent
episode of The Twilight Zone. "An Ape About the House" is a wicked
sketch of urban rivalry in which a house-trained chimp takes up art.
I think, however, that in "A Slight Case of Sunstroke" we have the prize
of the collection and one of Clarke's finest stories: a synthesis of
South American politics, gun-running and football ...
Forty years old it may be, but Tales of Ten Worlds still contains
much to delight the modern reader. There's life in the old dog yet.
Review by John Toon.
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