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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

The Fountains Of Paradise

Copyright 1979 by Arthur C. Clarke

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Awful (1/5)

I first read this in 1981 and most recently on the 20th January 2003

Vannevar Morgan is the most famous architect of the twenty-second century. He has built magnificent, gigantic structures across the planet. Now he has decided to build what will be the greatest of them all. He's going to build the skyhook, the space elevator, from earth to space.

This is a vast project. It will require the latest engineering technologies. It will take decades to complete. There's finance to find and politicians to placate. In particular, the elevator will need a particular equatorial mountain as its foundation and the mountain's current occupants may be unwilling to vacate.

Stirring stuff, it just makes you want to build your own skyhook, doesn't it? Anyway, after simply pages and pages, the elevator finally gets built and then at last there is a break from the lectures and a glimmer of some excitement. Morgan risks his life, thousands of miles above the earth, not to save his creation, but out of simple humanity.

Arthur, having done satellites, now turns his attention to space elevators, providing another technological tour de force covering information systems, pharmacology and biology in addition to civil-engineering.

In reading this book, you'll certainly feel that you've gained a idea of the engineering considerations of such constructions. The distances to be covered by the space elevator are immense, as are the sizes of its components, but what really astounds is the potential capacity of such a structure.

Lest you dismiss a space elevator as being an eternal impossibility to construct, Clarke reminds us of the laying of the first undersea cables. These were astonishing achievements implemented using radical technology for their time.

Clarke also reminds us that major engineering projects are important to our culture and to our cultural self-confidence, a point the British government could benefit from considering.

So, did I enjoy the book? Well, I did enjoy being made to think about skyhooks and major engineering projects, these being subjects normally far from my mind.

However, the story, though nicely crafted, is boring and populated with uninteresting characters. "Imperial Earth", which I read a few months ago, is a much superior book.

Oh, I almost forgot about the alien starship, yes, the alien starship. And on the subject of this alien starship, I'm sure that is no justification for the paperback's front cover which depicts a space ship not that far removed from the USS Enterprise. I may be naive, I may be superficial, but would have thought that an illustration of the space elevator itself, or indeed any scene from the book, might have been more appropriate.

Loaded on the 31st January 2003.
Cover of The Fountains Of Paradise
Cover art by Roy Birgo and Splash

Reviews of other works by Arthur C. Clarke:
Imperial Earth
The Ghost From The Grand Banks
The Hammer Of God

Reviews of other works by Arthur C. Clarke and Michael Kube-McDowell:
The Trigger

Reviews of other works by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter:
The Light Of Other Days

Reviews of other works with covers by Splash: