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Arthur C. Clarke is considered to be one of the greatest sci-fi writers who has ever lived. His works are known for having rich plots, filled with emotion, and pulling audiences into a world unlike anything they've ever seen before.
Most people already know his name thanks to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey — which was based off a book he wrote by the same name. However, saying that is his only good work is a gross error.
Through his decades-long career in science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke has penned countless books and stories that have captivated audiences and brought new worlds to life. If you're just getting into sci-fi, you need to read the best Arthur C. Clarke books soon.
2001: A Space Odyssey
You have probably watched the Stanley Kubrick movie by the same name, so maybe it's time to see the book that inspired him to film it all. After all, it is one of the best Arthur C. Clarke books to have ever hit the presses.
Arthur C. Clarke's book is all about humanity exploring the universe around them, and struggling with the strangeness that will always happen when people explore new corners of their worlds.
Explorers in this book deal with a number of threats as they go into space. They cope with the threat of being stranded out there, they learn how to handle one another's issues.
Most memorably, this book deals with the threat of a computer program that stops working for humanity — and starts working against them.
The spaceship that carries people to new worlds is run by HAL-9000, a program that is designed to rival human intelligence. Unfortunately, it also seems like HAL may have become the biggest threat to the crew of Discovery One.
Can the explorers on board find a way to shut down HAL? Once you see the story unfold, you'll understand why this quite possibly the best Arthur C. Clarke books of all time — and why it spawned a series of sequels.
While some of Clarke's books may have a slightly optimistic view of humanity, Childhood's End is not one of them. This entire book is raw, melancholy, and asks us what our human nature really makes us do.
In this story, aliens have landed on Earth. Within decades after the landing, all poverty, famine, and sickness have been eliminated by the alien race called the Overlords.
No one has seen them, and they only communicate through a single man. They have promised to show themselves within 50 years of their initial landing. Then, they will help Earth evolve and join other lifeforms as a part of an intergalactic community.
But, there's a problem with the Overlords' plans that makes everyone give pause. In order to evolve, humanity must give up many of the discriminatory beliefs they once had — as well as much of the human identity. And, that's proving to be a very difficult task, indeed.
This thought-provoking book forces us to take a bold, ugly look at human nature, but at the final stroke of the pen, leaves us with a glimmer of hope. Few sci-fi books truly capture what it means to be human like Childhood's End, and that's why it's one of the best Arthur C. Clarke books of all time.
Rendezvous With Rama
Rendezvous with Rama is often considered to be the second on the list best Arthur C. Clarke books of all time, with 2001 being the first. However, many Clarke readers would argue that the Rama series may actually be the better storyline — and it all begins with a rendezvous.
The book begins when a strange, cylindrical alien spaceship enters Earth's atmosphere. The government names the ship "Rama," after the Hindu god, and quickly sends a manned ship to see what is contained inside the vessel.
In many ways, Rendezvous with Rama turns standard sci-fi fare onto its ear. There are alien creatures and alien plants, but at the same time, there's little communication between humanity and the strange visitors. In fact, the builders of the ship are oddly absent throughout the book.
Throughout the entire novel, the crew visiting Rama only pick up on clues as to what the civilization was like — aside from observing throughout the ship.
Arthur C. Clarke was masterful in creating a world that is both shrouded in mystery and spellbinding in its storytelling. Who are the Ramans? Where are the Ramans? Will we eventually be like them — a lost and mysterious civilization, left to be discovered by people from another world?
Only time will tell, but if we do become another world's Ramans, it's safe to say they will react very similarly to the crew in Arthur C. Clarke's novel.
The City And the Stars
Arthur C. Clarke's first novel is also considered to be one of the best "hidden gems" of mainstream science fiction.
The book, which was written decades ago, takes audiences into a time when Earth has been all but ruined. The oceans have dried up, and deserts cover most of the land. (Surprisingly prophetic when you think about climate change, isn't it?)
The only city that has any life left is Diaspar and it's surrounded by a protective dome. Diaspar, in many ways, is a very realistic dystopian city. Every aspect of life is now controlled by a computer, and superficially, it's a utopia.
Everyone in Diaspar lives a very long life, then returns to the Central Computer, to have their bodies replaced. There is no childbirth and no real death. Alvin, a "Unique" who is living life for the first time, doesn't fear the outer world the way others do. So, he goes adventuring...only to find the domed city of Lys.
In Lys, life is short and intense — and people developed telepathic communication. As he continues to adventure, he soon realizes that the history they taught in Diaspar is not true and that the humans left on Earth were the ones who narrowly escaped a major cataclysm that was caused by an evolutionary attempt gone awry.
If you love books that restore your faith in humanity's ability to survive, then The City and the Stars is one of the best Arthur C. Clarke books you can read.
The Songs of Distant Earth
This book was written by Clarke as a way to expand on his short story by the same name, and it actually was his favorite story to write. The joy he had in writing it definitely comes through in a fully immersive plot, complete with a futuristic and fantastic world.
The Songs of Distant Earth might also be one of the most political novels written by Arthur C. Clarke, especially when you take a look at today's current events dealing with immigration.
Thousands of years ago, Earth's sun went nova — and every citizen of Earth who could fled. In an attempt to ensure humanity's survival, computers sent embryonic seed pods to various planets in hopes that people will be able to colonize them safely.
The distant, ocean-filled planet of Thalassa was one of those seeded planets, and life flourished there. After thousands of years, the civilization of Thalassa is utopian and beautiful.
Or, at least it was until over a million refugees from Earth's final days decided to visit.
This book makes you wonder about what happens when cultures clash, politics become strained, and whether people can learn to mesh with one another without conflict. For those who love a more subtle reaction to major events, The Songs of Distant Earth makes for one of the best Arthur C. Clarke books ever written.
The Nine Billion Names Of God
One of the best Arthur C. Clarke books ever written isn't actually a sci-fi novel; it's a collection of his best short stories. The Nine Billion Names of God is all about bringing a bunch of quick, punchy reads to audiences — all while giving audiences a chance to enjoy quality plots and brilliant writing from their favorite author.
Named after a short story he wrote that had later been republished in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, this book starts a story about monks who developed a computer to discover all the true names of God, and ends with a Jesuit priest visiting a destroyed planet, not unlike Earth.
While there are definite religious elements present, this entire series is brilliantly science fiction. It's not about religion as much as it is about human nature, and our undying need to have faith in something — even when it makes no sense to believe in what we see.
Fans who want short stories that deliver a powerful punch will adore this anthology, and will quickly fall in love with this author's work.