Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

‘‘The Star’’ was first published in the United States in the magazine Infinity Science Fiction in early 1955. It went on to win the most prestigious science fiction writing award, the Hugo, in 1956 as the best short story of the previous year. It has consistently been regarded by genre fans and critics as one of the greatest science fiction stories of all time. From its first appearance in an anthology of Clarke’s stories, it has been singled out for comment. In 1958, science fiction, fantasy, and horror writer Fritz Leiber identified ‘‘The Star’’ as ‘‘unusual and controversy–rousing.’’ Subsequent criticism, however, has been almost unanimous in commending the story’s complex ambiguities. By 1978 science fiction writer and literary critic Thomas M. Disch named ‘‘The Star’’ one of Clarke’s ‘‘few undeniable classics.’’ Genre critic George Edgar Slusser, focuses on the story’s Odyssey-like circular structure. He notes that even though the reader does not see it through to the end, the voyage of discovery out does conclude with a return voyage home. He also comments on the paradox of a Jesuit finding what seems like proof of cosmic indifference together with proof of the existence of the Star of Bethlehem. In a comparison with the H. G. Wells story of the same title, John Hollow pronounces ‘‘The Star’’ ‘‘anti-Christian,’’ and...

(The entire section is 422 words.)