Cycle of Fire by Hal Clement
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A human gets stranded on an alien planet just as an alien gets stranded in his own way. The only way out of the situation is for the two to befriend each other. Despite vast differences culturally and biologically, the two of them bond together as they overcome each obstacle in their path.
Hal Clement is a master of hard science fiction, and this is perhaps one of his best works. There are drawbacks to any Clement novel, of course; idealism abounds in any human character Clement writes (his idealism goes too far at times), and if you're familiar with the overall theme of Clement's hard sci-fi, you'll probably be able to guess the "twist" of the final pages. But the beauty of any hard science fiction novel Clement writes is the science which leads to such an utterly amazing alien world, and Cycle of Fire is no exception to this. The biology and culture of the aliens described is stranger than anything you might find in a fantasy or soft sci-fi novel, and yet there remains a scientific basis for every seemingly outlandish idea Clement puts to paper.
While this novel is often overlooked when compared to Clement's masterpiece, Mission of Gravity, its short length and interesting premise makes Cycle of Fire well worth the read.
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