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The Fountains of Paradise Paperback – September 1, 2001
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From Library Journal
Published in 1953, 1952, and 1979, respectively, this trio of novels follow Clarke's recurring theme of humans thrusting themselves into space and then not necessarily liking what they find. The religious images that run throughout Clarke's work also are present here.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Clarke once again sounds his grand theme...man is most himself when he...challenges the very laws of the universe." -- -The New York Times Book Review
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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.
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.
As a side bonus, this is also a prequel to the fourth book in Clarke's "2001" series, i.e., "3001" where the body of Frank Poole is found in space a thousand years later and brought back to life. His recovery takes place on the Space Elevator.
The book is a bit confusing in the beginning - introducing characters that really do not play a significant role in the plot of the book - but after a few chapters, it changes to some of the challenges faced in making a space elevator, and some of the unique benefits it provides.
I did not find this story riveting, but it was not annoying to read, and I enjoyed exploring the concept of a space elevator.