Originally The Fountains of Paradise
was intended to be Arthur C. Clarke's last novel, before the author came out of "retirement" to pen 2010: Odyssey Two
. It is also one of his best, and being set in a fictionalised version of Clarke's adopted home of Sri Lanka, one of his most personal. The story is based around the fantastical yet scientifically supportable idea of a "Space Elevator", a "tower" from the earth to geo-stationary orbit, 23 000 miles "high". The purpose is to make access to space routine, safe and cheap, and the 22nd century-set novel essentially follows Vannevar Morgan in his quest to complete this monumental project.
There are grand set-pieces worthy of the best adventure story, a generous scattering of fascinating speculations and observations and, of course, Clarke's famous eye for the epic vistas inherent in large-scale science fiction:
Slowly his eyes adapted, and in the depths of the mirror a faint red glow began to burn, and spread, and consume the stars. It grew brighter and brighter and flowed beyond the limits of the mirror; now he could see directly, for it extended halfway down the sky. A cage of light, with flickering, moving bars, was descending upon the earth.
As much the novel of a poet as that of a scientist, The Fountains of Paradise
makes striking use of the sometimes haunting history of Sri Lanka, a device echoed by Kathleen Ann Goonan in her Hawaiian set novel, The Bones of Time
. Anyone seriously interested in great science fiction should really have both these books in their collection. --Gary S. Dalkin
One of Clarke's most famous and acclaimed novels, winner of both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award