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The Black Cloud

Length: 8 hrs and 23 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (12 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Richard Dawkins Recommends this science-fiction classic, in which an immense cloud of gas enters the solar system, blocks the sun, and threatens to wipe out most of life on Earth. In Britain, a team of scientists gathers at a secret location to deal with the crisis. But as the months pass, what they learn will challenge everything they believe about the nature of life and the universe.

BONUS AUDIO: In an exclusive introduction, evolutionary biologist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins explains why he considers The Black Cloud, written by the late astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, to be "one of the greatest works of science fiction ever written".

©1982 Fred Hoyle (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Alexa
  • Alexa
  • 28-03-2010

EXCELLENT - despite it's age

I was strongly recommended to read this one, by my husband (astrophysicist) who has read it in 1960s and by Richard Dawkins' page. I do not regret. It is splendid, wonderful and SO full of knowledge - and I lked the strongly atheistic side of the book as well. A wonderful read, much more worth reading than "average" sci-fic. books. But I must adnit, I am a physicist and an atheist.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • 09-04-2012

Exceptional old-school British Sci-fi!

If you could sum up The Black Cloud in three words, what would they be?

Grounded hard sci-fi.

What did you like best about this story?

The twist...

Which scene was your favorite?

The description of the cloud's effects on the earth: sci-fi writers usual stuff up the details (because what they write is usually just fantasy in space) but Hoyle brings his enormous learning and knowledge to bear and the results are awesome.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

When space came down to Earth (?)

Any additional comments?

The Black Cloud is possibly too dry for anyone without a real interest in science, and probably too intellectually demanding for those who just want cliched heroics and explosions every 10 minutes...

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • PC
  • 11-06-2012

Classic Sci-Fi, by a great astrophysicist

What made the experience of listening to The Black Cloud the most enjoyable?

As a (retired) scientist, I especially enjoyed the realism of the description of how scientists work and think and interact.

It was also interesting to reflect on scientific leaders are controlled by their funding agencies, and Hoyle's fictional rants against politicians should appeal to a universal audience.

Who was your favorite character and why?

All the primary characters were convincingly portrayed. They were also as interesting and as diverse as real scientists.

Any additional comments?

Climate science, as known at the time of this book, played a key role in helping earth survive the arrival of the Black Cloud. Interestingly, their research and knowledge soon became highly politicized and was declared secret by the government, reminding me of the Manhattan Project.It was interesting to consider the author's speculations on the nature of highly advanced life forms, and how limited our own minds may be in comparison to more highly evolved life forms.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Håkan
  • 28-05-2012

interesting story

Would you listen to The Black Cloud again? Why?

Interesting to compare the difference in technological level of contemporary science and that of the sixties. And likewise of the similarities of human behaviour and reasoning.

What other book might you compare The Black Cloud to and why?

Fred Hoyle has written other books in the same vein. And numerous SF-writers. Arthur C Clarke e.g.

What does Jack Klaff and Richard Dawkins (Introduction) bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I'm quite interested in Richard Dawkins work, which amplified my interest if I hadn't read Hoyles work in the sixties already. Read a lot of astronomy then.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The compelling logic in the events and the hope of undiscovered resources in Mankind.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Anna
  • 13-04-2012

A classic of sci fi

What did you love best about The Black Cloud?

Like the reader of the introduction, Richard Dawkins, I first read The Black Cloud many years ago. I was fascinated then by the debate over the universe...Steady State (the Hoyle thesis) or the Big Bang, which is now widely accepted. Even today, while the Steady State theory might be out of favour, I still prefer a variation on this, rather than the Big Bang. Its still a fascinating question! Thus the novel is about what might be going on out there in the vastness, and Hoyle's description of how the human race might respond to something quite different to us dropping by is amusing. The book is quaintly dated in some ways, but still worth it, especially if you were around at the time when it was written.

What three words best describe Jack Klaff and Richard Dawkins (Introduction) ’s performance?

Dawkins' introduction was interesting and established the time frame and scientific context in which the novel was written. It would be very useful for those who are not familiar with the book.The reader ,Jack Klaff, was a bit "prim", that Tony Blair type of British accent, and the accents he gave his non British characters were at times excruciating. (I'm sure his Australian listeners would wince at the Aussie scientist, but perhaps that's just being petty!) Apart from that, it was well done.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Manuel
  • 24-05-2010

An excellent audio production of an excellent book

Hoyle's The Black Cloud is very good science fiction, not boring at all, as some have said, but engaging, interesting and quite plausible. Add to this an interesting introduction by Richard Dawkins and an excellent narration by Jack Klaff and you get an audiobook which is quite close to perfection.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Stuart
  • 06-05-2010

Wonderful!

Highly recomended for fans of Sci-Fi and pure science non-fiction. Well read and interesting.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Howard
  • 16-04-2012

Great Story

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. The story is plausible and the characters interesting and with substance

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Black Cloud?

description of development of alien intelligence

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

no. entire book moving.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Marcia
  • 10-04-2012

Unexpected but riveting story line

Would you consider the audio edition of The Black Cloud to be better than the print version?

I do consider the audio edition better than print. You can experience the emotions associated with the progress of the story that is missed in pure print versions.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Kingsley. He announces his conclusions (appalling as they are) with quiet aplomb. Quite the juxtaposition to the consternation of his fellows in this tale.

Which character – as performed by Jack Klaff and Richard Dawkins (Introduction) – was your favorite?

Herrick (sp?), american member of the team voiced with the range of emotions one might anticipate give the rapidly changing conditions and conclusions. Nicely done.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Yes. It was realizing that the cloud was a sentient being.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Steve
  • Steve
  • 19-05-2012

Good old fashioned sci-fi that educates

I read this book as a teenager and found this audio version just as good - and it took me back. Because of its time-frame (mid-20th century) some people might find it a little old-fashioned, but the story is plausible. Sir Fred Hoyle's scientific background helps educate while he entertains.... which makes the plot believable.

The story flows well and keep you engaged and the narration is clear and crisp. The characters are well defined by both the writer and the narrator. I was not disappointed in my memory of the original read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • D. Carver
  • 01-02-2016

Skip the intro!

The story is relatively straightforward with few reveals or surprises, except that is for the introduction which is one giant spoiler. Creationists will be happy to leap on this as proof that Dawkins is no genius although perhaps the producers should also share the blame they place it inside chapter one making it harder to skip. Still it would make a reasonable epilogue.
The story holds up well despite showing its origins in the late 50s. It's simple straightforward entertainment made more interesting by a generous lacing of real science.
I was thoroughly entertained but would have been much less so if I'd listened to Mr Dawkins.
Jack Klaff does a good job of the narration which requires a broad array of accents and I attribute its stiffness to the nature on 1950s characters rather than any flaw of Klaff's.
This is genuinely classic SF and worth a listen.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Rich Cassidy
  • Rich Cassidy
  • 24-10-2013

Academic and dull

What disappointed you about The Black Cloud?

To be honest I found this book a complete let down. Generally a very slow story, overly academic writing filled with tedious, un-engaging characters. I had heard good things about it and was looking forward to a really good plot with strong scientific roots. Unfortunately the science smothered the story.

What was most disappointing about Fred Hoyle’s story?

I've enjoyed a number of other sci-fi titles from around this period, but the lack of humanity in the characters left me cold. Firmly set in the world of academia, it felt very narrow, one dimensional.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

It's difficult to be sure how much the story is to blame when I found the narrating not to my taste either. The characters voices were too much, and the pace just too slow.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

The premise was good. The science was good too, but it just overwhelmed everything. I got so bored by it I couldn't even finish it. By the time I gave up everyone seemed doomed, and to be honest I really wasn't that bothered it they lived or died!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • alan
  • 23-12-2012

The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle

The real power of this book is in its basic realism and to some extent its nostalgia as the characters and the technology are rooted in the sixties.

The events in the book could all have happened then and Hoyle describes brilliantly how a disaster facing the earth would play out although in our more enlightened times,everyone -not just the scientists and politicians-would be aware of the facts through the media and internet.

Although the characters are considerably wooden,they are clever and believable enough to instruct us in some basic scientific thinking and methodology which keeps the reader interested throughout.

The later parts of the book are a bit silly to say the least but we have already had a good enough trip before then to let this go and anyway the epilogue makes up for any minor mistakes.

The book is beautifully read and the characters brought to life by Jack Klaff who makes all the different accents seem very real.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Peter
  • 25-06-2009

Great!

Loved it! In this great book, we are clearly living out the fantasy of the author. Young boys fantasize about being a tough cowboy and saving the damsel from the Indians, or being a fearless spaceman and seeing off aliens. A 42-year-old astronomer?s idea of a fantasy is evidently to receive professional and intellectual kudos from everyone he meets; receive an infinite research budget from the evil government whilst humiliating them at the same time; having casual sex with the belle of the ball and generally having his peers whisper to each other how darned clever he is whenever he walks past them at a terribly important convention where he is the guest speaker. Good for him, I say. If Hoyle wanted his protagonist to be a Christ-like astronomer, walking in a halo of unassailable intellect and having his peers and foes alike trembling in his presence, then that?s his call.

The accents used by the narrator for some of the characters are notable more for their comedic qualities rather than any dramatic accuracy. One eminent American scientists profundities are somewhat undermined from sounding like 'Benny the Ball' from Top Cat; the transient romantic interest is described as "husky", but sounds like she has been long-harbouring a sixty-a-day habit, and two of the British Cabinet members sound like they are struggling to keep hold of their false teeth. Another American is clearly concealing a half-Australian, half-cockney heritage whilst a plot element has the cloud sounding to originate from Cirencester.

The technicalities of the cloud are a bit shaky, such as the propulsion system which I shall not go into here. For most of the book I had images of this gaseous super-organism finally arriving at Earth and starting its great speech to us lesser planet-bound people when, upon realising it was still falling into the Sun, truncating its speech with the words "Oh...bugger!" before rather embarrassingly disappearing forever.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • AReader
  • 09-03-2019

Seminal but dated

As a child I thought this was thrilling, and it was groundbreaking, but in the modern era so much of it seems baffling. The descriptions of computers as a large room full of tape with holes punched in, the almost total lack of female characters, the incredible length of time taken to place a simple phone call.....added to the lack of understanding of the ecosphere which is readily available to every schoolchild in the 21st century..... sadly this is now no more than a curiosity.
The narrator makes a good stab at various different accents, but I don't know how authentic the various American ones are, and the pompous English tones of some character would never go without ridicule these days.

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  • Mrs R.
  • 08-02-2019

My Favourite Audible Book

I read this in the late sixties and loved it then, along with John Wyndham and H G Wells. It was a real pleasure to return to the book and I enjoyed every moment - I don't count the introduction that others have criticised.
At first I wasn't sure about the slow measure of the narrator's speech but it rapidly grew on me and was in fact perfect for the era the book is set in.
I would thoroughly recommend this book, particularly for sci fi fans.

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  • Stephen Daly
  • 29-11-2018

Stop the bad accents

It’s so hard to listen to this due to the truly hammy awful accents. The narrator’s natural voice is actually fine and then suddenly we are subjected to a nasal barrage of New Yoik wiseguy, cliched American boffin and Norwegian Wood. What the hell is going on? It’s like some crappy you tube clip of a whistlestop tour of the globe. Dreadful.

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  • Wakeman
  • 04-05-2018

A classic story

This story was written at the time of the Cold War and reflects those values, as well as the astrophysics espoused by the author. He was an advocate of the now discredited 'Steady State' theory. He also clearly despises the contemporaneous political classes. However the story still holds up; the descriptions of the approach of the Cloud and its consequences are examples. The narrator's use of various accents by & large works well, but is occasionally a distraction.

Recommended for fans of classic sci-fi.

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  • M. Davies
  • 09-03-2015

Dated and childish ...

Dated and childish. If you love good scifi don't read this silly book. Arthur C Clarke is much better old school stuff.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    out of 5 stars
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  • Donna
  • 30-04-2010

What a great surprise!

Intelligent and engaging.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful