on August 4, 2000
This is the story of an engineer using diamond cable to build a space elevator. Along the way we have visions of the Gibraltar bridge and the argument of putting rails on the side or not, since the vehicles on the bridge will be controlled not by occupants but by the road. Here is Clarke writing about stuff that is now in development. Intelligent roads. When will we seriously look at the Space elevator? The book is set in Clarke's favourite place on earth Sri-Lanka, although admittedly he conveniently shifts it to a more favourable latitude for scientific reasons. This book is beautifully written but has a backbone of hard science behind it. Today's writers could learn so much from this man.
on September 18, 2004
The story here is seems really long and drawn-out, filled with characters that have little or no purpose at all. The main character, Vannemar, is the only one that seems to have any definition. The others are kinda meaningless. It's as if Clarke thought up the ending, then wrote a bunch of "bla bla bla" to lead up to it.
The only thing that kept me interested was the Starglider side story. The Starglider was an unmanned alien craft that traveled to our solar system and used it's on-board computer to communicate with us.
The ending is one of the best that Clarke has written. Which I thought made the entire book worth reading. Although I thought the characters and the rest of the story only served one purpose: filler.
on July 10, 2000
Or not. But close enough. The sad thing about reading this book and reading the later Clarke books is the contrasting quality, this appears to be the last time he had his act completely together, later books have had little sparks of ideas here and there, but mostly lack that roar of inspiration. Not here. Clarke goes for broke, first putting forward an idea that was totally new at the time: a space elevator. For those of you not scientifically inclined, it's basically a long tether connecting a station orbiting the planet, and people could run up and down the cable in cars. Basically it would make spaceflight easier because ships could launch and refuel up there and not have to worry about gravity and escape velocity and it just opens the entire solar system up. These days it's been more commonplace, writers don't even bother centering entire books around it (though Kim Stanley Robinson probably had this book in mind when he had the Martians install an elevator in his Red/Green/Blue Mars book), but back then it was a fairly new idea. And a great one, it's out there but enough so the reader can envision it, the problem with the Ringworld is that I have trouble picturing it within the realms of reality, I just can't, I know it's possible but I just can't do it. Here, it's gloriously real and Clarke takes you every step of the way. He sets the novel in a renamed Sri Lanka and then proceeds to play with the history, framing the story about a king who built a series of gardens to reach the gods two thousand years before. Also there's this alien spacecraft that happens to pass through years before and laughs at the thought of God, which I thought had little relevance (I thought Clarke was just making sly references to Rendevous with Rama at first) and that makes perfect sense as well. It's a quick read, but not a light one, the science concepts are presented so that those without engineer's degrees can follow. Alas it's also out of print (cue rant: WHY?) but well worth your time to find, used book stores should have a copy if you try and look. But if you ever thought that we're reached the limits of our technical achievements, go read this and see just how far we can go.
In the two decades since THE FOUNTAINS OF PARADISE was written, the idea of an 'elevator' into space has permeated the science fiction world completely, seen as merely a fact of things to come. In part, I believe it is because Arthur C. Clarke made such an excellent case for it in this novel which builds one up 36000 km (24,000 miles)--from Sri Lanka to geostationary orbit. It combines two of the authors most popular themes, technological evolution & human quintessential development, with sparse prose and moving directness. At the time of it's original publication, it was announced to be the author's last novel, which happily is one of Clarke's predictions which did not come true! Very Highly Recommended.
on March 13, 2004
You can almost see Patrick Stewart playing Vannevar Morgan, the driven engineer who pushes to construct the world's first "space elevator." For any reader unfamiliar with the concept, what Clarke talks about in this book is a train track that stretches from the equator to geostationary orbit, where our weather satellites generally reside. This immense tower, elevator, or "skyhook" could humanity tremendous amounts of money and energy, as we would no longer have to launch rockets into space, but could simply send payloads up this extended elevator. From there, we could use the spin of the earth at the elevator's uppermost point to launch payloads throughout the solar system without using as much fuel.
It's heady stuff, and I thoroughly enjoyed Clarke's play with this concept. And along the way, he manages to describe the "office of the future" (much of which has already occurred in the 22 years since the book was released), the flooding of the Sahara, the damming of the Bering Sea, the bridging of the Straits of Gibraltar, and other massive engineering projects. Oh yes, and Clarke also throws in a lesson or two about Buddhism, contact with an alien space probe, weather satellites, the aurora borealis, the history of a monument in his native Sri Lanka, and half a dozen other historical engineering developments. Clarke's work here is about PROGRESS, writ large. This is still one of my favorite books. Perhaps that is because of Morgan, the only well-developed character in the whole story. He is one of those characters whom the real world does not have enough of: the truly visionary engineer. At any rate, Clarke manages to show a future in which man-made machines are awe-inspiring but not detrimental or overpowering to mankind.
I'd like to live in this world.
on November 10, 2001
Hugo & Nebula Awards for Best Novel.
Nikola Tesla has been called the man who invented the 20th century. I'm hoping that Clarke will be remembered as the man who invented the 21st. As I type this there is a TV in the room, connected to a box, in turn connected to a dish on the roof, that is pointed to a satellite over 42,000 km away in what is called a Clarke Orbit, after the astronomer who realized it would be a useful place for a communications satellite to be, Sir Arthur C. Clarke.
So what does that have to do with this novel? In this book Clarke talks about a bridge, a tether that connects the ground to Clarke orbit. A vertical railroad, allowing for a more economical method for reaching Earth-orbit than riding on a Space Shuttle with the power of sixty-five locomotives.
As in real life, the political problems far outweigh the technical ones, and those who say that Clarke is weak in characterization have not read the same book I did.
Do the math, we can build a tether, we should build it. The only thing wrong with this book is that it hasn't happened, yet.
on March 8, 2013
The bad thing about Kindle books is the fact that one tends to get caught up in so many extremely bad books, that
we lower our standards very easily.
Reading this Arthur Clark novel has made me recognise that.
We settle for cheap and frequently regurgitated themes that when a classic such as this comes along,
in my case, a second time, we tend to not recognise the genius behind it.
His style is smooth and effortless and I will reccomend it to any age.
on March 9, 2014
If you enjoy sci-fi which gets down to very detailed explanations of how something might be accomplished, this book may be for you. Several passages read more like an engineering guide than a novel. While I appreciate attention to detail and some basis in reality, I felt overwhelmed and less than entertained by that portion. It felt like the novel was trying to be many things and thus failing to be anything completely.
The engineering portion came roughly halfway through the book. At the start, it alternated between two interesting stories - an ancient tale of King Kalidasa who had grand designs including the titular fountains, and the story in the 22nd century of engineer Vannevar Morgan approaching the retired diplomat Rajasinghe about his design for an elevator to the stars. Both tales were interesting and I was eagerly anticipating the two would continue until they connected. I was disappointed to soon find the tale of Kalidasa abandoned.
Soon a third major storyline was introduced with flashbacks to a time when Earth was contacted by an alien space probe. The passage teases about an alien race which is more advanced than the people of Earth; however, this storyline too is basically dropped until much much later when it is resurrected in a somewhat inexplicable manner.
The saving grace of the book for me was the large final segment which details the building of the space elevator. The reactions of people to the idea was interesting and the extended sequence regarding an accident where Morgan has a chance to be heroic was the best part. It contained some good tension and a tragic but satisfying outcome.
on January 24, 2013
The book has a great description of the space elevator and the process of building the first one. But the characters were painted a bit thin. (Typical of a lot of hard SF). There was also a bit of preachy atheism in the book. This could have been an interesting part of the book, but it ended up being a loose end of the plot that was never tied up. The conflict between the engineer and the monastery was inadequately resolved. There was also an interesting subplot with the ancient history of the site of the space elevator (a fictional equivalent to the nation of Sri Lanka). Like most hard SF, the highlight was the science and Clarke did a nice job here. A more recent telling of the story would have had a bit more nanotech in it, but overall this was a good read.
on November 27, 2015
I love the science fiction of Arthur C Clarke. When I saw several available on Kindle for a reasonable price, I just had to pick up a few of my favorites, leaving the paperbacks on the bookshelf at home! to collect dust!!!