Piles of books

Reading more Arthur C Clarke books

I grew a little bored with my current books, so I thought I’d read some classic science fiction. I picked one of Arthur C Clarke’s early books, “Childhood’s End“, and read it pretty quickly.

Despite the slightly dated technology references, the story is really well written, and kept me engaged right to the end. I wrote a short review on Goodreads for the book:

I enjoyed this book. Some of the technology references are a bit dated (the book was written some time ago). That said, they didn’t detract from the story, which was fascinating. The book managed to retain a few plot twists until the end, which was really nice.

I started re-reading Clarke’s 3001. I’m sure I read the previous books in the series (2001, 2010, and 2061), but 3001 always appealed to me the most. One aspect of the story that stands out for me is the identifier citizens of that era use in place of email addresses, handles, or whatever else we use.

It uses a gender indicator, followed by a date, a random 5 digit number, and an institutional or interest-based association. It reminds me of the names that Iain M Banks uses for his characters in The Culture. Here’s an example in Wikipedia:

Some humanoid or drone Culture citizens have long names, often with seven or more words. Some of these words specify the citizen’s origin (place of birth or manufacture), some an occupation, and some may denote specific philosophical or political alignments (chosen later in life by the citizen themselves), or make other similarly personal statements. An example would be Diziet Sma, whose full name is Rasd-Coduresa Diziet Embless Sma da’ Marenhide:

  • Rasd-Coduresa is the planetary system of her birth, and the specific object (planet, orbital, Dyson sphere, etc.). The -sa suffix is roughly equivalent to -er in English. By this convention, Earth humans would all be named SunEarthsa (or Sun-Earther).
  • Diziet is her given name. This is chosen by a parent, usually the mother.
  • Embless is her chosen name. Most Culture citizens choose this when they reach adulthood (according to The Player of Games this is known as “completing one’s name”). As with all conventions in the Culture, it may be broken or ignored: some change their chosen name during their lives, some never take one.
  • Sma is her surname, usually taken from one’s mother.
  • da’ Marenhide is the house or estate she was raised within, the da’ or dam being similar to von in German. (The usual formation is dam; da’ is used in Sma’s name because the house name begins with an M, eliding an awkward phoneme repetition.)

Iain Banks gave his own Culture name as “Sun-Earther Iain El-Bonko Banks of North Queensferry“.[1]

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