Close to Critical
|Close to Critical|
First book edition
|Cover artist||Paul Lehr|
|Media type||Print (magazine, hardback and paperback)|
|Preceded by||Mission of Gravity|
|Followed by||Star Light|
Close to Critical is a science fiction novel by Hal Clement. The novel was first serialized in three parts and published in Astounding Science Fiction magazine in 1958. Its first hardcover book publication was in July 1964.
The book is set on the planet Tenebra, a planet of the star Altair and a world with thick atmosphere, a shifting crust, crushingly-strong gravity and surface temperatures of just over 374 degrees Celsius, close to the critical point of water. Human scientists have spent the last two decades studying Tenebra's intelligent life from the safety of an orbiting laboratory.
The Tenebrans are intelligent, but primitive by human standards. Yet scientists from Earth have found ways to train and educate some of the Tenebrans. This training becomes crucial when two beings—a young girl from Earth and the son of an alien diplomat—are marooned in a bathyscaphe that is headed toward the surface of the planet, where neither can hope to survive.
SF Impulse reviewer Tom Boardman Jr. commended the novel for its "impressive plotting and sustained suspense," noting that Clement's "consummate craftsmanship" turned a simple story into an intense one.
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