Mission of Gravity

Mission of Gravity - Hal Clement 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 has to 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 ones 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 than 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 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's 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.