Thursday, December 04, 2014

Book: Arthur C. Clarke's "The Fountains Of Paradise"

My last book of 2014 ... probably ... was a piece of classic science fiction.  Originally published in 1979, Arthur C. Clarke's "The Fountains of Paradise" tells the story of the building of the first space elevator two hundred years in the future.  An interesting concept locked inside a rather dull book.

The conflict in the book centers around finding someone to fund the construction, finding a place to build it (which happened to be smack dab on top of a Buddhist temple), and several lives at risk during a construction accident.  Do these conflicts sound a bit mundane?  If you said yes then you would be right.

This was a huge concept looking for a story to showcase its magnificence and in the end the story does not rise up to the challenge.  I have read other books by Clarke and have found them interesting and often well written.  This one did not live up to his other works in my opinion.

Clarke is known for being prescient and bringing a realistic portrayal of the world of the future. Here he came up short again.  I can't really fault him here as few authors of the 50's, 60's, and 70's foretold the connected, computerized world of just a few decades in the future.  There is one scene where the main character runs down to the hotel lobby to use the general purpose terminal to look up information.  In another, characters exchange cards that are plugged into their phones to input their contact information.  Clarke apparently did not see wireless internet and tablet computers in the future.  The lack of foresight - remember the book is set in the twenty-second century - is a little jarring at times.

When I choose books to read I usually try to read current works.  This book reminded me why I do this - I'm not a fan of books whose 'future' has been surpassed by our present.

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