Audiobooks The Last TheoremAuthor Arthur C. Clarke – Intimatenights.co.uk
I thought this was a good book It was Clarke's last book (mainly authored by another scifi great, Fred Pohl, from 50 pages of Clarke's notes) and kind of stands as an homage to his work and ideas it has a skyhook space elevator based on Sri Lanka (Fountains of Paradise), the Grand Galactics (aliens who resemble the Monolith aliens from 2001), his hope that mankind will outgrow religion (an unreasonable expectation given that mankind has always expressed religious thoughts and it answers questions for people that science cannot), and his love for his adopted country of Sri Lanka, etc It basically has two seperate stories one of the Grand Galactic aliens who detect humans' use of nuclear weapons and determine to exterminate them in the name of peace and one of the protagonist, Ranjit, a Sri Lankan man The storylines intersect near the end of the book I found the Ranjit story to be the most compellingit is just basically the life story of a young man nothing special (except that he finds a short proof of Fermat's Last Theorem using the mathematics available to Fermat at the time) This story chronicles his life in Sri Lanka, intersecting some current political elements over time (piracy of cruise ships by Somalis, imprisonment and torture, the Iraq War, etc.), his dissatisfaction with his work, his subsequent marriage, and family lifepretty mundane stuff, but it was extremely well written and I could identify with it The parallel Grand Galactic story wasof an added bonus The Ranjit story could have stood on its own (with some obvious tweaking of the end) I didn't care for the portrayl of America as the bad guy at the end of the storyI'm afraid that Clarke's opinion of recent past American foreign policy has become his vision of America in the (near) future The ending was also a little too pat for meeverything tied up nicely Aliens befriended the Terrans instead of obliterating them, a nonreligious version of the Golden Rule was applied by humanity, humans discovered eternal life by downloading their counciousness into computers, and humans took over after 13,000 years the role of the Grand Galactics in manipulating time, space, and the evolution of the universe Interestingly, Clarke (and Pohl) deal with a lot of spritual and religious issues for professed atheists.It also has a lot of history, Sri Lankan culture, math, and hard science fiction (technological) elements, which I thought was wonderful I learned a new way to calculate the number of combinations of a binomial system using binary numbers and how to multiply large numbers together by halfing and doubling the multiplicants and adding them (Egyptian or Russian multiplication) Some of the hard scifi elements include using boron to produce hydrogen powered cars (glossing over some of the problematic chemistry involved) and electromagnetic pulse weapons Pretty interesting stuff. The Last Theorem is a bit of everything It's a story about Sri Lanka, about life as a young student, about the world political order, about aliens, about space colonization, about mathematics and then some As it's so broad and just a few hundred pages long it lacks a bit in depth here and there but overall its a nice read. I'm a big fan of Arthur C Clarke, but 3001 The Final Odyssey and now this have tested my loyalty Both were written in the latter years of Sir Arthur's life (The Last Theorem was the last book published before his death) and both had good ideas that were poorly executed.The EM shockwave of Earth's nuclear tests spread into space and eventually reach a race of megabeings, called the Grand Galactics who immediately dispatch one of their client races to eliminate this upstart race Meanwhile, young mathematician Ranjit Subramanian discovers a short, elegant proof to Fermat's Last Theorem and becomes embroiled in a secret organisation.I really wanted to like this book, there were many good ideas but the writing was very poor, the pacing was very uneven and the characterisation was thin The galactic invasion plot and the Earthbased plots never really meshed properly and the end was a complete mess, with no tension having been built up, and the conclusion just happens out of nowhere, leaving me wondering if a chapter or two had been missed out.A disappointing end to a long and fruitful career. In many ways, it's appropriate that this was Arthur C Clarke's final work It's sort of a love letter to him and his career, magpieing ideas from his best works, from the allseeing alien beings to his love of Sri Lanka There's countless little nods to Clarke's work and its great fun to spot The trouble is, this isn't really a very good book It is essentially the life story of a Sri Lankan boy who is a remarkable mathematician and manages to once and for all conclusively solve Fermat's Theorem Apart from the remarkable achievement he doesn't really live that remarkable a life All the way through there's a sense of doom that aliens are heading to Earth and right near the end they do and it's pretty much all fine.There are some great ideas in here The various aliens are welldescribed and welltalked about and I liked their slightly dystopian vision of the future Earth, which seems a decent prediction so far The trouble is there are so many ideas shoved in here there wasn't really much time for an actual story There's not really a plot, it's just a selected best bits of one man's life with a few good scifi ideas squeezed amongst them Despite the general feeling that this wasn't a good book, I found it fairly enjoyable to read This may not make sense, but it does in my head The book is well written and the characterisation here is really rather good, especially that of Ranjit, it's just that you get to the end of the book and think is that it and wonder what on Earth the point of the whole thing was.I think the phrase that best describes my failing is thus: an enjoyable failure. When Ranjit Subramanian, a Sri Lankan with a special gift for numbers, writes a threepage proof of the coveted “Last Theorem,” which French mathematician Pierre de Fermat claimed to have discovered but never recorded in , Ranjit’s achievement is hailed as a work of genius, bringing him fame and fortune But it also brings him to the attention of the National Security Agency and a shadowy United Nations outfit called Pax per Fidem–or Peace Through Transparency–whose secretive workings belie its name Suddenly Ranjit–along with his family–finds himself swept up in worldshaking events, his genius for abstract mathematical thought put to uses that are both concrete and potentially deadly From the sublime to the not so And it really pains me to say that Arthur C Clarke died last year and it was a great loss indeed It’s hard to imagine afamous science fiction author and one who had such a prestigious career So when ‘the final novel from SF grandmaster Arthur C Clarke’, as the shout line went across the cover of The Last Theorem, came through the letterbox, and I saw that Clarke had cowritten it with Frederik Pohl, another significant talent, I though, ‘Wow, this is going to be special.’The fact is that — pretty much from page one — it wasn’t, and as I read further and my hopes of any improvement were dashed I became saddened and really rather annoyed I was sad because I no longer saw the spark of brilliance, the unique ideas that characterised Clarke’s work He was always a bit dodgy on characterisation, but it was the development and explanation of the science at the core of his work that drove you on through his novels The Last Theorem is a rambling tale where not a great deal in the way of science fiction actually happens, and when it does, it certainly isn’t startling or new.The story concerns Ranjit Subramanian a young student living in Sri Lanka who takes up mathematics at university and goes on to get married, have kids and solve Fermat’s last theorem which makes him rather famous Meanwhile some aliens who don’t like Earth developing nuclear weapons, let alone using them, send a destruction fleet to do what destruction fleets do best The whole story is told in what I think was meant to be a lighthearted jokey way which just comes over as a bit condescending and supercilious It’s also ‘told’ rather than ‘shown’, despite the age old law of Creative Writing 101, which only serves to do what such an approach always does — distances the reader and robs us of the detail, the immersive experience, to really go with the narrative There’s also a kind of fifties sensibility running through the book that I really didn’t like Most women don’t rate a second name and the‘developed’ women characters are devoted to their men and know their place At one point Ranjit’s friend turns up with flowers for his wife and a bottle of whisky for him and Ranjit to drink I cringed in the background somewhere As to the science fictional aspects, as you might guess from above, they are lacking in originality Indeed Clarke basically rips off himself, recycling his skyhook idea from his earlier The Fountains of Paradise and using a mechanism for the aliens to communicate with mankind straight out of 2010: Odyssey Two This is not a fitting capstone for a lifetime of achievement, and that is what saddens me.What annoys me is that the publishers went ahead and published it I am not party to any conversations around how that decision came about The only reasons that come to mind are they didn’t know or realise that as a piece of writing it sucked or they didn’t care because it was going to sell a boatload anyway or they were asked/ compelled by Clarke’s estate or there was some other legal requirement I hope there is some other, saner reason.The other thing that annoys me is that this book is being pushed and pushed hard in the shops That means that readers who may not have read in the genre before will pick it up as it is purportedly one of the best books by one of our best authors and they will get a totally wrong idea of what we are actually about Let’s move on to a happier subject. Overall, the word I'd use to describe this book is shallow Clarke and Pohl, two big names in SF, have managed to take two interesting concepts (Fermat's Last Theorem and alien sterilization of Earth) and turn them into a boring book It's as if they said one day, Well, we've succeeded at everything else in literature; now we have to succeed at writing a bad book!My major problem with the book is the lack of any consequences, or really, any conflict at all At points the story threatens to inject a conflictsuch as when Ranjit becomes an unwitting accomplice to pirates and subsequently spends two years being tortured in prison For a moment, I thought that might produce some genuine unhappiness that could mar this otherwise oppressively upbeat book Unfortunately, that was not the case.Even toward the end, tragedy loomed on at least three separate occasions, yet somehow everything turned out all right It's not that I have a problem with happy endings; I loves me a good happy ending But happiness without struggle against adversity is hollow I've read much better science fiction than thisthis book feels like it was written for a fourteenyearold as a My first science fiction novelit's patronizing.Our protagonist, if indeed we can call him that, Ranjit, stumbles through his life without ever having to make any important decisions Everything just sort of falls serendipitously into place Oh, and along the way he discovers a miraculously short proof to Fermat's Last Theorem Meanwhile, alien overlords have sent alien minions to sterilize Earth of dangerous humanity But it's OK, because the overlords change their minds and then the minions befriend humanity.As with the possibilities of tragedy I mentioned above, the book tempts us with the prospect of a meaningful theme when it touches upon the dangerous nature of an EMPlike weapon controlled by the Big ThreeRussia, China, and the United States Will this lead to an Orwellian future in which these Big Three control the only military forces on the planet? And will first contact with an alien species ironically lead to allout planetary war even as the countries of humanity approach global peace?Nah It's much easier to just tell us in an epilogue that everything worked out fine, and thirteen thousand years everything was still going fine.I'd have to say that even The Da Vinci Code better integrated an esoteric academic subject than this book I understand that not everyone loves math as much as me, so I tolerate the explanations of Fermat's Last Theorem But it wasn't even interesting It had no relevance to the plot, because there was no plot And since this book had Arthur C Clarke's name on the cover, this has been the cause of severe disappointment for me! I love both these guys They're unquestionably masters of their craft, and two of the greatest luminaries of science fiction Having said that, this book iswellvery mediocre I went on Wikipedia to find out if maybe something was going on during the development of the book, and it turns out that Arthur C Clarke was in the late stages of his life when he started this one He owed his publisher a book, but hit a point where he felt like he just couldn't generate the ideas any So, he reached out to his friend, Frederik Pohl, and asked if he could finish the thing Frederik would write chapters and send them to Clarke, who would approve them as his health was failing The result is a story that starts off pretty strong, but then just kinda descends into a weird sort of short hand where the human race goes into space, good things happen, aliens show up, and everything turns out great.So yeah, all praise to the men involved, but it definitely came across as an orphaned project. Why, when two great writers work together on a project, the result is so poor? Same happened with The Medusa Chronicles by Al Reynolds and Stephen Baxter But this one is even worse I expected some hard scifi and what I got was the story of a young man (obsessed with proving Fermat's Last Theorem), with a lot of useless details and digressions, which did nothing to shape the character or help the storyline in some way And this was just one thread The other is the story of some aliens, the Grand Galactics, some kind of masters in the universe, which after discovering that on Earth were detonated a lot of atomic bombs, sent another species of aliens, One Point Fives, to obliterate the Earth There are some other species too, but I still wonder why were they introduced in the story for their contribution is rather secondary.Maybe is sounds interesting but it isn’t All those details about Ranjit’s life are way too many and pointless Although he is a math genius, he is involved in some actions which are very hard to believe The story abounds in lots of facts and tricks from number theory, some indeed interesting but most of them are there just to fill the pages.The whole novel seems to have, at least for me, an air of mocking; not sure if it was desired to be a political satire, or just seems so because of the childish plot, cartoonish alien characters and the simple writing Further, I couldn’t suspend the disbelief Not a single main action in the story seemed plausible to me Yes, it’s fiction but I rather believe in FTL speed being real than in the events Ranjit was involved in Not to mention that after building Skyhook (the space elevator) and tourists being able to travel to the Moon, the first thing it was done was a sport competition…It also has bits and pieces from other works and movies, the most evident to me being A Beautiful Mind (Ranjit Robert’s characters having a lot something from John Nash) and the original A Meeting with Medusa (the orbital race to the Moon in the sail space ships) I can’t point the finger exactly which are others but most certainly this story has nothing original in it.The one thing that kept me finishing it was the curiosity on how it ended and how proving Fermat’s Last Theorem fits the plot – well, it didn’t Or I missed the point… The feeling now is that I have read a story written in the beginning of scifi era, not in 2008 Really disappointing The translation didn’t help either, but that’s another story and not the authors' fault.Two stars for the number tricks. This book was written by two great, but very old, authors.It shows Half of the book is Clarke and Pohl,often ignoring the 4th Wall, telling the story of a young mathematician in the manner of two benevolent grandfathers who're trying to impress their grandkids by throwing random mathematical tricks (some of them pretty neat, tbh) and info in the plot.In the other half they're dreaming of a world where the UN, with SriLanka as the vanguard (!!) can bring about world peace, where Clarke's dream of the space elevator can come true simply because it's a great idea, and humanity, having ridded itself of conflicts, can focus on hosting olympics in space Somewhere along the way there's a rather small alien invasion of sorts And Ferma, who wonders why he's in the title.Nothing wrong with hoping for a bright and glorious tomorrow for mankind a few days before you died, mr Clarke, but we, left behind, cynically see your naïveté You already wrote this book when you were younger and it was better in its bleakness.