Sunday, April 30, 2017


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Glide Path, Arthur C Clarke, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1963, 200 pp

This is the sixth book I have read by Arthur C Clarke, as part of My Big Fat Reading Project and my study of the development of science fiction. The surprise was to find it was not science fiction but a scientific novel set in early WWII.

Flying officer Alan Bishop finds himself posted on a British RAF experimental base where a new use of radar is being developed called ground-controlled approach (GCA). The science was unfamiliar to me sending me to the Internet to learn the basics and terminology. I even found an image of the real-life vehicles in which the work was being done!

According to Wikipedia, Glide Path was Clarke's only non-science fiction novel and is based on his own experiences during the war working on the ground-controlled approach project. In an author's note he assures us that all the characters are imaginary, but it is evident that he had intimate knowledge of the project and its technology.

Alan Bishop is a great character, who comes of age during the story, loses his troubled father, rises out of his humble beginnings, and finds his purpose in life.

Many of the scenes when the testing of this prototype was used to "talk" pilots out of the sky, during storms and low to no visibility, by means of radar on the ground, are full of exciting tension. Amazing to think that even to this day, every time one lands in a jet the further developments of the GCA are the reason one's aircraft lands safely where it is supposed to, no matter what the weather is doing. 

Quite an enjoyable and informative read. 

(Glide Path is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.) 


  1. It had the added bonus of making you research the topic; that's my kind of book.

    1. You know, I thought of you while I was doing that!

  2. Who knew that Clarke wrote a non sci-fi book? This one sounds quite interesting, but then he was a very good writer.

  3. Okay that's another thing we take for granted: GCA. It's sort of nice to find out it wasn't a sci-fi novel, cool.