The premise for MEDUSA CHRONICLES is interesting of itself: the story is based on (and really a sequel to) Arthur C Clarke’s 1971 A MEETING WITH MEDUSA. Clarke’s original story met with critical acclaim, and is widely regarded as being one of his most popular and enduring tales.
As with many (perhaps even most?) SF readers, Clarke’s stories have a special place in my heart. So many of us can point to his fantastical adventure stories as being the origin for a lifelong interest in the genre; stories that are accessible as children, but equally engaging as adults. I know that I’ve returned to many of Clarke’s works again and again: in some ways unable to move on from the worlds that he created. The world, however, has moved on. Many of the things that Clarke envisaged have either not come to pass, or have developed in very different ways. That’s not to say that Clarke’s stories have dated or aged – far from it; they remain, at their core great adventures. But they exist in a sort of parallel present; a universe in which we have colonies on the moon in the early 1990s, and have shed our worldly shackles in favour of pursuing a golden space age.
It is that sense of adventure that MEDUSA CHRONICLES seeks to capture. The central character is Commander Howard Falcon – survivor of an airship disaster, and himself an anachronism. Falcon, you see, was the beneficiary of cybernetic surgery, making him a metal man with few organic components. At the start of CHRONICLES, he finds himself already falling out of synch with the rest of the human race. Humanity no longer wishes to pursue the melding of man and machine, and Falcon is regarded with fear and suspicion. He finds himself present at many trigger points in history, as humanity and other sentient organisms explore the solar system.
Reynolds and Baxter do a great job of replicating Clarke’s style, and CHRONICLES feels like a natural extension to both the world of the novella and the original story. Falcon himself is very much a Clarkian hero: grumbling, stalwart and often a witness to events rather than participant (although, to be fair, that is not always true: he does take a very central part in one particular development, with resounding consequences throughout the centuries…). Everything feels very Clarke, in a comfortable and pleasing way. Little touches such as references to movies, famous names and historical events are all great nods to the big man’s style.
Falcon’s condition also allows Reynolds and Baxter to “dip” in and out of human history. Between major events, Falcon basically hibernates, and is only called upon to influence developments of appropriate magnitude. His status as not quite machine, but not quite man, gives him a special authority with both factions: crucial as the book develops. The overall story structure (and especially) the ending have a strong ring of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, which is no bad thing at all.
THE MEDUSA CHRONICLES is a worthy addition to the mythos of A MEETING WITH MEDUSA. Arthur C Clarke’s universe is in very safe hands with Reynolds and Baxter – if golden age science fiction is your thing, then I think that you will really enjoy THE MEDUSA CHRONICLES.