The Essential Hal Clement
Volume 1: Trio for Slide Rule and Typewriter
by Hal Clement

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

edited by Mark L. Olson
& Anthony R. Lewis

introduction by Poul Anderson

New England Science Fiction Association
Framingham, Massachusetts; 1999

518 pages

March 2010

Science, aliens, and friendships

Trio for Slide Rule and Typewriter is a very enjoyable omnibus collection of three novels by Hal Clement, all originally appearing in John W. Campbell's magazine Astounding Science Fiction. Clement is the premier exemplar of "hard" science fiction, that is, striving not only to base stories upon interesting scientific principles, but to rigorously develop the extrapolations that define the settings and alien creatures, and make the plots scientifically plausible. The drama builds from the scientific setting. In contrast, Clement's characters are mostly low-drama and definitely non-angst-ridden, often friendly and reasonable — even the villains, if any.

Hal Clement is the pen-name of Harry Clement Stubbs (1922-2003). His science fiction was written mostly from the 1940s through the 1960s, almost all for Astounding (later Analog Science Fiction - Science Fact). NESFA editors Mark Olson and Anthony Lewis include three of his memorable novels, in the order written — they are not related:

Needle, 1949

Iceworld, 1951

Close to Critical, 1958

These novels are (or will be) separately reviewed at Troynovant.

Poul Anderson contributes an introduction to Trio for Slide Rule and Typewriter, providing very brief overviews of:

  • aliens and alien worlds in science fiction, pointing to Stanley G. Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" (1934) as the revolutionary take-off point;
  • Clement's career;
  • and the three included novels.

There is minimal plot spoilage, but I still recommend reading the introduction only after reading the stories.

NESFA's Hal Clement

These NESFA Press compendia are large to very-large books, and beautifully produced archival editions which they endeavor to keep in print far longer than the commercial publishers' standard. You should have their editions for any author who is a favorite of yours.

NESFA as usual has done a superb job with their volumes titled The Essential Hal Clement. I believe Clement's novels are substantially stronger than his shorter stories, so Trio for Slide Rule and Typewriter probably is the best place to begin reading Clement, and a handsome volume to own, for these novels all reward our rereading.


© 2010 Robert Wilfred Franson


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