The Fountains Of Paradise
Copyright 1979 by
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
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
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
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.