From outside it was simply an ordinary looking London pub, a place you’d have to be guided to more than once before you memorized it’s location, somewhere between Fleet Street & the Embankment. But, if by chance, an insider led you to the White Hart on a Wednesday night, you would have found yourself in the midst of a select gathering or writers, editors, scientists & interested layman–drinking, swapping odd bits of information, &, like as not, listening to Harry Purvis’ memorable stories.
A scientist by profession, Harry Purvis has had or heard about some of the most astonishing experiences–like the story of the carnivorous orchid that was used in a murder plot, or the one about the military computer that was converted to pacifism. There’s SILENCE PLEASE, involving a spurned lover & a device that was supposed to destroy sound; & BIG GAME HUNT, in which an ambitious researcher becomes so wrapped up in his latest project–controlling animal behavior with electrical impulses– that he overlooks one tiny important detail. Such stories may challenge your powers of logic & strain your imagination. Yet even if you doubt their veracity, they’re guaranteed to provide you with hours of SF reading. Baron Munchausen, step aside. – Goodreads Synopsis
Tales from the White Hart Review
Tales from the White Hart is a lovely collection of short stories from Arthur C. Clarke. Prior to reading this, I’d honestly had no idea that the man did funny. I’m ashamed of that now, because Clarke does funny very, very well. Filled with sarcastic zingers, unnervingly accurate postulations of the future, and dry wit that will leave many potential readers puzzled as to why the person recommending the book to them is laughing like a hyena, it is truly a fantastic read.
The preface tells us that Clarke started this collection because of some affront from the idea that science fiction and comedy did not mix. He accomplishes showing that it mixes quite well via the relating of tales scientists have exchanged amongst themselves at the local pub – the White Hart. This was ingenious because it enables him to move from subject to subject, poking fun at everything from Oxford to Americans and showcasing the sort of good-natured snobbery that can come almost hand-in-hand with high intelligent quotients. The mix of high-brow off-the-cuffs and base humorous suppositions leave the reader perpetually amused.
So many things are touched upon in this collection: Artificial Intelligence, Micro-robotic operations, the conceit of man, and the worry for the future. Most of the stories are build-ups to a one-liner, and most are absolutely hilarious, but intermixed there are some stories that bring everything back down to a more serious notch before ratcheting it back up again. There’s even a meat-eating plant that’ll bring a smile to your face.
My favorite quote is:
“In pure science, you can be pretty sure that nothing fundamental is ever discovered by anyone who is actually looking for it -that’s half the fun of the game.” – Arthur C. Clarke, Tales from the White Hart
I think it’s safe to say if you’re an admirer of comedic science fiction sub-genre, this is a must read. Also, Mr. Purvis is the ultimate of leg-pullers and I shall forever admire him and hope he one day makes a reappearance.
Book Details for Tales from the White Hart Review