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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

       
Imperial Earth

Copyright 1975 by Arthur C. Clarke

SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Very good (3/5)

I first read this in June 1977 and most recently on the 4th November 2002.

In the 2$rd century there are colonies on the Moon and on Mars, there is exploration and commerce throughout our solar system. All this is possible because of fusion drive technology that powers the spacecraft that maintain this activity.

All of these spacecraft need hydrogen fuel for their fusion drives, and all the cheap hydrogen comes from Titan.

All this demand for hydrogen means business and affluence for Titan, and what's good for Titan is good for the Makenzie family, since they started the hydrogen mining business on this once-desolate moon of Jupiter and now they run the colony that developed.

However, Titan will soon be faced with a serious problem. The next generation of fusion drives will use their hydrogen much, much more efficiently. They'll be faster, and crucially they'll need less hydrogen. That's going to hit the Titan economy hard.

It's clearly time to do some politicking, so young Duncan Makenzie is sent to Earth. He'll address the the world during the Quincentennial celebrations of American Independence. He'll have time to take in the sights and also to pick up a new Makenzie, a clone of himself. For the Makenzie's are clones, their damaged genes unfit for fathering children, they maintain their family through the generations by cloning.

He's also going to be tied up trying to break a smuggling ring - illegally importing materials from Titan - and trying to determine just how much his childhood friend, Karl Helmer, but more recently rival, is mixed up in this.

And he'll get a chance to meet Catherine Linden Ellerman once more. She was his teenage love, but she chose Karl instead causing the break-up between Duncan and Karl.

This was a real pleasure to read, both when I first bought it, and again just this month. It's intelligent, polished and entertaining. It has an immediacy and reality that I missed from "Childhood's End", "A Fall Of Moondust" and all those Rama books.

It's a simple plot, but Clarke has packed it full of interesting ideas on technology, politics and culture. One stimulating inclusion is the discussion on the pentominoes puzzles. Clarke throws in the odd prediction or two, of which his minisec is now realised in PDAs and ultra-portable notebook computers. He did this before even the glimmer of the Intel PC chip, before VLSI circuitry, before the modern Internet. In fact he underestimated how quickly our computers would develop - our present day PDAs are already many times more powerful and sophisticated than this minisec of the 24th Century. Well that's probably an arguable assertion, if one includes reliability and security as prerequisites to power and sophistication.

If you've read Wilheim's "When Late the Sweet Birds Sang" you probably need to read Clarke's different view of human-cloning. It's probably this book that convinced me many years that there's nothing innately evil about cloning humans. It's not necessarily a bad thing. As put forward in this novel, if you can not have kids then why not make a clone?

Loaded on the 30th November 2002.
    
Cover of Imperial Earth