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The Fountains of Paradise (original 1979; edition 1979)

by Arthur C. Clarke

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2,402352,590 (3.75)41
Member:HanJie
Title:The Fountains of Paradise
Authors:Arthur C. Clarke
Info:VGSF, 1989.
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:nebula, hugo, sf masterworks, science fiction, space elevator, orbital tower, Sri Lanka

Work details

The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke (1979)

  1. 103
    The Web Between The Worlds by Charles Sheffield (lorax)
    lorax: The two classic space elevator novels, written nearly simultaneously. Clarke's is a better book, but they're both good engineering SF, and if you like space elevators you definitely should read them both.
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So what happens when a religious site, used by pilgrims for over 2,000 years, becomes the necessary point on Earth for the base of a space elevator?

Clarke begins this novel with the musings of King Kalidasa, who has built his palace upon the heights of Yakkagala (Demon Rock), one of many high mountains in the island kingdom of Taprobane (modern Sri Lanka). At its foot lies Ranapura (City of Gold, created by Kalidasa's father) and renowned for their inland seas and irrigation channels that keep the city and surrounding farms green. Yet Kalidasa, as so many despots do, decides to do his father one better and introduces a display of fountains at the top of his mountain kingdom. In the late 400's C.E. With pulleys and human servants and . . . you get the picture. Also on the face of Yakkagala are frescos of over two hundred women, though only about 20 have survived into the events of this book.

The peak of the sacred mountain, Sri Kanda, is always visible in this book: either from the palace of Yakkagala, or in the mathematical calculations for the space elevator. Due to the Earth's rotation, land masses, and weather patterns, only this one mountain near the equator will do for the placement of the landward base for this structure. The elevator will have as its space end a satellite, and the wires that go between both ports are made of a micro thin substance that can only be created in space's zero-G.

The things that impressed me from a science perspective, as a non-scientist, is an adherence to scientific principals, even in the 22nd century when the modern portion and action of this book takes place: rockets still expend a great deal of fuel when they go into the atmosphere, they still emit sonic booms, and there is no magic formula that makes this reality go away. Likewise, it is part of this plot that humans are living on asteroids and mining them, and any metal that comes from Earth is not going to have properties that will allow them to withstand the pressures of the elevators themselves. Also dealt with are the hundreds of years of space junk that has to be cleaned, along with the realities of overwork on the human body.

Elements that engaged me were the human characteristics of the main characters; even the one female character was a top-notch reporter in her own right who was treated with respect by Paul and Raja (and Clarke); the musings of King Kalidasa about his fate; and the honor shown to a sacred site by the science community.

Dazzling was the description of sunrise at Sri Kanda, including the two-day march by the pilgrims as well as more modern methods of transport at the time of the novel. The idea of waking up to such a magnificent view, every morning, is enough to encourage a contemplative life for the end of my days. And a religious conversion, though all religions lead to the same mountain.

My only beef was the epilogue. Why does Clarke have to consistently destroy the Earth and all its inhabitants?? ( )
  threadnsong | Mar 12, 2017 |
One of his better stories, about the building of an elevator into space. Great characters, great historical resonance, and it gets better as it picks up steam. Everything just works. ( )
  unclebob53703 | Mar 16, 2016 |
The Fountains of Paradise
Author: Arthur C. Clarke
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
Published In: New York City / London
Date: 1978/1979
Pgs: #261

REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Summary:
Dr. Vannevar Morgan wants to build a space elevator linking Earth below with an orbiting satelitte 22,300 miles above. The elevator when complete will be able to lift interstellar spacecraft into orbit as well as terrestrial and extraterrestrial cargo. Morgan’s opposition are the Buddhist order who live atop the mountain that is perfect for the elevator’s lower tether.

The story is juxtaposed with that of King Kalidasa who seeks to rule his kingdom while facing the same mountain with an oracle atop it who purports to see all. He faces the mountain to his south, his half-brother with treasonous intent to take the throne for his own to the north, and his own ambition and destiny as he nears the nadir of his reign. He will build his lofty Pleasure Gardens and leave his mark on the world.

Both carry lofty ambitions. Both will reach for the stars, on the same Earth, in the same country, under the same mountain, 2,000 years apart.

Genre:
Fiction
Science fiction
Space
Thrillers
UFOs

Why this book:
Arthur C. Clarke...that’s all I need to say.

__________________________________________________​

Favorite Character:
I would have said King Kalidasa before I got to his path to the throne, brutal. And his treatment of Firdaz the Persian architect of the Yakkagala monument city. The comparison of Kalidasa and Morgan falls apart at the brutality level.

Least Favorite Character:
The vengeful monk and world class mathematician Parakarma Dr Choam Goldberg acting to protect his brethren’s sacred place by sabotaging the filament test of the space elevator with the weather control systems of the planet. He is a cypher, but his actions are understandably human, though not very monk like. Though, on further thought, these Monks at the top of Sri Kanda have stood down kings and conquerors in their past and what is the space elevator, but one more conqueror come to take their mountain. Even though Parakarma’s actions directly lead to the prophesied action that would presage the end of the order’s time on the mountain top. And his apperance still later as a Swami Krisnamurthi rudimenting on the nature of God in a world that has discovered aliens.

The Feel:
This has an “it could happen” feel. The science is solid.

Favorite Scene:
Morgan’s closing scene in the climax...anti-climax of the novel and his vision of the future.

Pacing:
This story flows so well. I forget how smooth Clarke’s writing is until the next book I pick up and begin to flow through.

Hmm Moments:
That’s brutal, what Kalidasa did to his father. Of course, what was done to his pet in vengeance by his evil stepmother wasn’t conducive to a normal childhood.

Morgan seeing Kalidasa as a kindred spirit doesn’t bode well for Morgan considering how bloodthirsty the king was. What he did to the Persian architect of his pleasure gardens and god-king palace so that he couldn’t be made to build one for someone else between Taprobane and Isfahan was horrible. What he was planning to do vs what the architect believed he was going to do...both still horrible.

The idea that Charles Martel losing to the Islamic invaders in Europe could have led to a more civilized Europe through the Middle Ages and no need for a Renaissance since the Dark Ages never would have happened is crap. Much as I respect Mr. Clarke, he loses points with me here. The idea that Islam would have done a better job than Christianity did doesn’t wash with me. The warfare of men would have swept and reswept and reswept again across Europe and eaten itself in fire and blood whichever religion and conquerors were the authors of history.
__________________________________________________​

Last Page Sound:
Good book.

Author Assessment:
Love Clarke’s work. His voice in his work is so smooth. The science is understandable to the layman and meshes with the story instead of overshadowing it. It’s been long enough since the last time I read Clarke that I had forgotten how much I love his prose.

Editorial Assessment:
One of the paragraphs in the version that I am reading had lines out of place. Luckily, a previous reader had arrowed the passages so that they made a reading order sense.

Knee Jerk Reaction:
real classic

Dewey Decimal System:
F
CLA

Would recommend to:
everyone
__________________________________________________​

Errata: ( )
  texascheeseman | Feb 17, 2016 |
Enjoyable hard-ish science fiction. If you enjoyed other novels by Clarke you will likely enjoy this one. ( )
  kale.dyer | Feb 15, 2016 |
When I was a kid, Arthur C. Clarke's 'The Fountains of Paradise' was one of my favorite books. I must've read it more than half a dozen times, checking it out from the library. The book has to do with the creation of a space elevator, and though I haven't read it, now, in over 30 years, I remember it dealing beautifully and sensitively with the conflicts between traditionalism and social and technological progress. It follows one scientist's 'impossible dream' to fulfillment, and although the ending is bittersweet, it is full of optimism: of the belief that innovation will truly make our world and our lives better, and that one brilliant person can, at the end, make a difference.
( )
1 vote AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Arthur C. Clarkeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oakes, TerryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
To the still-unfolding memory
of
LESLIE EKANAYAKE
(13 July 1974-4 July 1977)

only perfect friend of a lifetime,
in whom were uniquely combined
Loyalty, Intelligence and Compassion.
When you radiant and living spirit
vanished from this world
the light went our of many lives.

NIRVANA PRĀPTO BHŪYĀT
First words
The crown grew heavier with each passing year.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Sri Kanda, the Sacred Mountain rising majestically above the equatorial island of Taprobane, bears silent witness to the hazardous lives of two obsessed men.
King Kalidasa, tyrant of the second century, murderous usurper of an ancient kingdom, sought to reach heaven by creating his lofty Pleasure Garden, with their towering fountains and the panorama of beautiful maidens. Two thousand years later, Vannervar Morgan, brilliant engineer of the twenty-second century, seeks to approach the stars through technological daring that will open a new era in space travel.
Each of these interweaving narratives is charged with surprise and suspense, laced with excitement and wry humor. Each of the protagonists comes within reach of his ambition - and pays for his triumph in a starling, compelling finale.
This saga, the most accomplished writing of an internationally famed storyteller, captures two worlds - one long past, based on the history and legend of Ceylon, the other a brilliant extension of scientific possibility and a luxury of imagination. Beneath the sweeping drama that dominates this tale lies a commentary on the human condition, with its yearnings and strivings, its fears and follies, its ultimate courage.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0446677949, Paperback)

This Hugo and Nebula Award-winning novel is reissued in this trade paperback edition. Vannemar Morgan's dream of linking Earth with the stars requires a 24,000-mile-high space elevator. But first he must solve a million technical, political, and economic problems while allaying the wrath of God. Includes a new introduction by the author.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:13 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

SCIENCE FICTION. In the 22nd century visionary scientist Vannevar Morgan conceives the most grandiose engineering project of all time, and one which will revolutionize the future of humankind in space: a Space Elevator, 36,000 kilometers high, anchored to an equatorial island in the Indian Ocean.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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