Reviewed date: 2004 Nov 15
Earth is rich in heavy metals. The other planets--Mars, Venus, Mercury, the Jovian and Saturnian moons--have an abundance of light elements but few deposits of the heavy metals which are critical to modern technology. The colonies depend on Earth for metals, but Earth resents the outflow of her mineral wealth. Earth rations the heavy metals that mean life or death to humanity's colonies. The colonists will die without metals.
Naturally this can only lead to war.
Bertram Sadler is recruited as a secret agent for Earth, is hastily trained, and is sent to the Moon to locate a spy who has been leaking Earth secrets. But even if Sadler can find the spy, can he prevent the outbreak of a war that will surely destroy all humanity?
Earthlight is the novel form of one of Clarke's short stories. Clarke is regarded as one of the three best science fiction writers in history (the others being Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein) but Earthlight is a novel clearly cobbled together from short stories. The main plot of the book starts well but is abruptly terminated: Clarke changes to another character's point of view and picks up another story line entirely. The main plot is picked up again after this interlude, but unfortunately Clarke offers only a token ending. The result is a disjointed, broken book whose main mystery is unsatisfactorily resolved.
Arthur C. Clarke is one of the best writers of science fiction. His masterpieces include Rendezvous with Rama, Childhood's End, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Nine Billion Names of God. Read one of those, but skip Earthlight.