Copyright 1975 by
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
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
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.