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The Black Cloud

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  3,160 ratings  ·  326 reviews
A 1959 classic 'hard' science-fiction novel by renowned Cambridge astronomer and cosmologist Fred Hoyle. Tracks the progress of a giant black cloud that comes towards Earth and sits in front of the sun, causing widespread panic and death. A select group of scientists and astronomers - including the dignified Astronomer Royal, the pipe smoking Dr Marlowe and the maverick, e ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 2nd 2010 by Penguin Classics (first published 1957)
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This is the best geek wish-fulfillment fantasy I know, and I've also heard that it's Richard Dawkins's favorite science fiction novel. Make of that what you will.

It's The Future, as imagined in the late 50s, and by the time I read it the book was already feeling a bit dated. But, oddly enough, that only adds to its charm. Scientists discover a huge cloud of gas, heading directly for the solar system. When it arrives, it will blot out the Sun for months, creating the greatest natural catastrophe
Daniel Bastian
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
“We tend to give ourselves a pat on the back when we contemplate our successes, as if to say that the Universe is following our logic. But this is surely to put the cart before the horse. It isn’t the Universe that’s following our logic, it’s we that are constructed in accordance with the logic of the Universe. And that gives what I might call a definition of intelligent life: something that reflects the basic structure of the Universe.” (p. 172)

There may be two reasons Hoyle's classic has endur
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Too cool for old school sci fi ? I urge you to think again.
Fred Hoyle the author of this book was a renowned astronomer, cosmologist, writer and a broadcaster/tv personality.
The cloud arrives blocking out the sun and causing devastating almost cataclysmic events on earth. But these are only told as an incidental part of the story, the main narrative is regarding the contact and eventual communication with the invader.
There is a lot of science in this book and some of it is mind boggling but t
Manuel Antão
Oct 20, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Vintage and eschatological SF: "The Black Cloud" by Fred Hoyle

Published 1957

I read this book in my teens. Since then I hadn’t read it. The only things I remembered was that there was a Cloud hurtling toward the Sun, there were Americans and British involved, and that there was a lot of formulas, diagrams, and lengthy expository footnotes on several pages…

After re-reading it, the book’s central question is still the best of it:
“What is
Honestly, just skip the maths, forget it's got too much science and not enough sex. It's brilliant. It might be a boy's book, I know a couple now who keep it by their bed, but I found it unputdownable.

The interaction with other intelligent life is very moving. The politics felt real.

I wonder what would happen if everybody in the world had to read this, just to get a glimpse of what catastrophic climate change would be like. Maybe it would make us even more complacent, since in the the story itse
3.5 stars. Really good classic hard science fiction story, though the predictions of the future at the time now make the story come across a little like pulp sf. Nonetheless, this is a well written story with an interesting plot that I thought was very enjoyable. If your looking for a classic scifi read, you could do a lot worse.
Shivam Chaturvedi
This is only the second time that I have attempted to read science fiction, the first one having ended in disaster with Isaac Asimov's Foundation series #1.

Part of the reason being that science fiction novels tend to literally and metaphorically shoot for the stars, but we as human beings will always be bounded by limitations - and therefore the notions of grandeur fall flat and the whole thing becomes a little funny.

Black Cloud wasn't that bad. It is infact a pretty well written story - with t
Nov 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
I think it was Brian Aldiss who said: "Science fiction is no more written for scientists than ghost stories are written for ghosts." Well, that may be true of most science fiction but I think this is an exception. A science fiction book written by a scientist, for scientists. That is not to say you won't enjoy it unless you are a scientist, I'm certainly not, but you may get an additional kick out of it if you are.

There's something about English SF written in the 50's, a somewhat old fashioned,
Andrej Karpathy
Oct 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I really liked the beginning to mid part of this book because it tackles a very interesting and novel idea for alien species. It goes far beyond little green men, and I admire that. Also, Hoyle was a physicist and this makes the book much better than what you'd read from any random sci-fi popular science wannabe who does some "research" for few months. The world needs more scientists turned authors. The book also (Gasp!) contains math in between prose. Awesome. ...more
Krish Sanghvi
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Will we be able to accept truth? Will truth be too profound, too overwhelming, too against our beliefs for us to accept it? Will we be sceptical about truth?
And what happens once we've acquired this truth? Do we still go on living? Or do we accept death coz there's nothing in life beyond truth. How will truth change society? Will they be too immature to accept it? Will they still live in the bubble of religion and law and society which they've created for themselves? Or will they realise that t
ashley c
Retro, science-heavy, down-to-earth.

This has held up pretty well for a 60 year old science fiction novel. It did not do that thing that classic scifi does in the 1950's and predict flying cars in 2000 or teleportation by 202o - people then were somehow wont to think that reaching the mystical new millennium symbolises seemed so unreachable at the moment that surely everyone there would be enlightened humanoids that made magic. Hoyle, being a scientist of his own (and I just found out, being the
Naomi Foyle
Oct 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The lengthy scientific discussions in this book often read more like a 1950's boys' own Oxbridge seminar than a novel, while its detached depictions of apocalyptic conditions on Earth were rather less dramatic than the average news bulletin. However, the fundamental narrative arc was fascinating, the characters in the main deftly sketched and delineated, and the central premise - the radical nature of a dense black cloud making a beeline for the sun - when at last exposed, justifies the wait. I ...more
Jesse Kraai
Oct 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
The dream fulfillment of the astronomer!

I got turned on to this classic through Manny Rayner's review of my book, Lisa: A Chess Novel. And he's right, just as Hoyle tries to describe the world of astronomy, and doesn't shy from a few formulae, I tried to show the chess world, and offered some notation and diagrams. We both felt some urge to share the beauty we had known, we wanted to show some of the depth. Both of us wanted to speak to people who knew nothing of our craft, and both us were most
Fred Forbes
Aug 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Put on your thinking caps! This may be a 1957 classic but it still resonates today. Got to love some of the "advanced" technology of the time, scientists blown away by the computing power of a machine that must be programmed with holes punched in tape, but much of what is accomplished is "forecast" in this novel by things that will not be available for half a century. What I enjoyed most about it is that, while it may be scientifically dense in places it is presented as plausible and supported b ...more
Mar 03, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A mysterious cosmic phenomenon is detected. An unscrupulous scientist lies to and bullies political leaders until he gets to create a society of super-scientists, ruled by himself and independent of any governmental oversight. By the time his lies about the consequences of the phenomenon (he predicted the end of the world, not entirely accurately) become apparent, he has kidnapped the Prime Minister and managed to arrange things so that he is, basically, Dictator Of The World, and only a few ten ...more
Frank D'hanis junior
Sep 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Best scifi book I have read all year. Though at first it can be a bit dry and descriptive at times, and it is very British and exuding some fifties stereotypes (such as the taciturn but briliant Russian scientist), it develops very quickly into a compelling read. It is mostly a deep book about how science works and what intelligence is. Fred Hoyle was of course a quite briliant physicist himself, unfortunately mostv famously for not winning the Nobel prize and being wrong about the Big bang (he ...more
Koen Crolla
Nov 19, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I feel I should justify my purchase of this book; Fred Hoyle is, after all, notorious for originating a number of creationist talking points (including most significantly the eponymous Hoyle's fallacy, which is the one about the tornado in the junkyard) and being a general twit. He's also dead now, though, and he wasn't a typical creationist, so I have no reason to believe he passed that trait on to his children or whoever now benefits from the sale of his books. On top of that, he was a signifi ...more
May 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Considering that The Black Cloud is the favourite science fiction novel of Richard Dawkins and what a harsh snobby sort of critic he is, when you put the underlying theory of biological life as stated in this novel in contrast to the Selfish Gene theory, it's very much surprising how he could have liked it. But there's only so much you can expect from a specialized astronomer when he sits to write science fiction.

It starts with a gas cloud coming towards the solar system to harvest some of the s
Michael R.
I found my used 35 cent paperback, drawn on, but still readable in a used bookstore. I had never heard of this book before but like to try obscure SF sometimes.

Later, I found out that it is a bit of an older classic and in some schools is/was required reading. Fred Hoyle I discovered is a bit of a famous astronomer, and even coined the phrase 'Big Bang'. ironically, not in support, but in sarcasm that all of the vastness of space could pop out of a pinpoint like in a Big Bang.

As to the story, I
Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Science-fiction written by a physicist is a new experience to me - it comes with both positives and negatives, but fortunately (personally, at least), those traits cancel favourably. The writing itself is the sole negative, seeming rather forced and not massively emotively competent; although very serviceable and scientifically frank. The antipode in the annihilation of the negative is that which comes from the injection of pure scientific reasoning, therein dwells the clinical brilliance of thi ...more
Dmytro Tovstonoh
This is intelligent science fiction with a strong scientific spirit. The overall storytelling is similar to Carl Sagan’s Contact; it is highly detailed, although a little uncouth (especially in the case of the inner world of protagonists.)

Hoyle praises science and its methods and manages to keep the story entertaining. He was an astronomer himself; therefore, it is surprising that the best part of The Black Cloud is not astronomical but biological. Probably, this is why it is a favorite book of
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction, 2019
An interesting-enough science fiction story that sticks where it can to Real Science™ without totally giving up its conceits. And I'll admit that I did rip through this one.

But it's also a very definite product of its time. I think there's like... one woman in the whole story? And she's basically there to provide a sexual backstop of the protagonist. The line where Kingley is all "Preserve me from the obtuseness of women!" That.

Oh and also how this is a gigantic nerd fantasy? The scientists bunk
Marc Nash
Jul 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lithe ideas clunkily expressed. Some brilliant ideas on show here, but the writing is poor in parts, all info dumps and stop the action to explain the science, particularly in the first third or so. Yes it is a fair representation of how scientists discuss and bat around theories, but it doesn't lend itself to a terribly pleasurable read. When the author sets up the oppositional tensions between science and politics it's quite trenchant, but it's really the ingenuity of the SF plot as a mysterio ...more
Peter Tillman
On the reread list. The review to read is Manny's, which is outstanding:
"... the reason geeks love it so much is the main character. Kingsley is an absurdly idealized version of the author; brilliant astrophysicist, all-round polymath (he has great taste in classical music and reads Herodotus on the train), irresistible to women. If your partner is a geek with cultural pretensions and he hasn't come across The Black Cloud, get him a copy for his birthday.
Nov 27, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Woof! Droppin’ it after 60 pages. I appreciate the realistic process with which the scientists research and speculate on an astronomical event. There are many works of speculative fiction that could use a little more accuracy, or at least a realistic course of action undertaken by the characters to give weight to the surroundings in their story. This book is entirely weight. There is nothing of joy or lightness. Balance matters ya renobs!
Divyanshu Bagga
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, science
Really makes you wonder about how you define life, scientifically.
Though its lacks character development, but it makes up by quite an imaginative plot development, and by its accurate portrayal of scientific thinking, especially how it drilled down the point of testing theory by prediction, and not by confirmation with the past data.
Stefan Gugler
The best aspect of the novel was the accurate portrayal of the scientists. In a lot of science fiction, the scientists are all over the place, staggeringly certain about everything, all endowed with super human prediction powers. In The Black Cloud, the scientists still take a central role but confidently express their uncertainty about circumstances and their hypothesis, which was very refreshing from the usual tropes. It reminded me a bit of the movie Arrival, which I also found very accurate ...more
Kevin Shen
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible book start to finish. Witty, cunning, charming. Possibly the best sci-fi novel I've ever read. The Black Cloud is up there with Ender's Game and Traveller's Guide to the Galaxy (although it would be unfair to the compare the 3 books against each other because they're so different). As I read this book, I couldn't help but feel it was a physicist's lifelong fancy.

[ spoiler paragraph]

The spoiler paragraph has been moved to the bottom of the review.

Your ability to suspend-disbelief in fi
Michael Rumney
I read this for the first time when I was about 12 and thought it was great. Having re-read The Black Cloud I have concluded it isn't as good as the 12 year-old me thought.
It is a cool idea, that a interstellar cloud threatens to wipe out all life on earth and that cloud is a life-form.
The writing style is like reading a research paper, with equations and diagrams to illustrate the science. But in essence it is a load of scientists talking to one another in a too formal English. It is difficult
Todd Martin
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Q: What kind of shorts does The Black Cloud wear?
A: Thunderpants

The Black Cloud by English astronomer Fred Hoyle (the originator of theory of stellar nucleosynthesis) was personally recommended to me by Richard Dawkins. Well … there were probably 500 other people in the auditorium at the time when he described his disdain for fantasy fiction ala J.R.R. Tolkien and extolled his love of hard sci-fi, mentioning Fred Hoyle’s book specifically calling it "one of the greatest science fiction novels ev
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Professor Sir Fred Hoyle was one of the most distinguished, creative, and controversial scientists of the twentieth century. He was a Fellow of St John’s College (1939-1972, Honorary Fellow 1973-2001), was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1957, held the Plumian Chair of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy (1958-1972), established the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy in Cambridge (now p ...more

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