Monday, August 24, 2020

Book Review: The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke

It is one of the finest books ever written by Arthur C. Clarke. I enjoyed reading this book right from the start. It painted vivid images as I read the novel. It is undoubtedly a master class of writing in modern literature and a perfect example of aesthetic blending of historical and science fiction.

With increasing technology goes increasing vulnerability; the more Man conquers Nature the more liable he becomes to artificial catastrophes.
But man-made obstacles had never stopped him before. Nature was his real antagonist-the friendly enemy who never cheated and always played fair, yet never failed to take advantage of the tiniest oversight or omission.
Sir Arthur C. Clarke does not underestimate the knowledge of his readers, nor does he get carried away by writing pure science. The amusement is only grows as I rode on the Orbital Tower. The motive of the plot explores the themes of man's desire to conquer the world, earn his fame despite the challenges of technology, politics and religion.
Over the years Rajasinghe - himself the bearer of a royal name, and doubtless host to many regal genes - had often thought of those words; they demonstrated so perfectly the ephemeral nature of power, and the futility of ambition. "I am the King." Ah, but which King? The monarch who had stood on these granite flag-stones - scarcely worn then, eighteen hundred years ago - was probably an able and intelligent man; but he failed to conceive that the time could ever come when he would fade into an anonymity as deep as that of his humblest subjects.
The plot is set in Taprobane, present day Sri Lanka, in the 22nd century where an ambitious engineer, Van Morgan, plans to build a space elevator on the mountain of Sri Kanda. This ingenious project is faced with strong opposition from the Buddhist Temple on top of mountain, from the devious hands of politics and also by critics (referred as Donald Ducks) whose only job is to criticize. But Van is not going to stop until his dream is realized.
The eyes of the Buddha were completely blank empty pools in which a man might lose his soul, or discover a universe. Upon the lips there lingered a smile even more ambiguous than the Mona Lisa's. Yet was it indeed a smile, or merely a trick of the lighting? Already it was gone, replaced by an expression of superhuman tranquility. Morgan could not tear his eyes away from that hypnotic countenance, and only the familiar rustling whir of a hard-copy readout from the console brought him back to reality – if this was reality.
For me, it's one of those books which I found extremely engrossing right from the beginning and made me read fast like I was always on the ledge to know what builds up next. The writing style is very subtle because it makes you read between the lines. No words or lines are thrown to the reader to digest directly; he is always made to chew first. It is very intelligently written that way.
“There will be some aerodynamic noise,” Morgan admitted. “But nothing like that near a large airport.” “Very reassuring,” said the Mahanayake Thero. Morgan was certain that he was being sarcastic, yet could detect no trace of irony in his voice. He was either displaying an Olympian calm, or testing his visitor's reactions. The younger monk, on the other hand, made no attempt to conceal his anger.
Unfortunately, Bickerstaff did not know his limitations. Though he had a devoted coterie of fans who subscribed to his information service – in an earlier age, he would have been called a pop-scientist – he had an even larger circle of critics. The kinder ones considered that he had been educated beyond his intelligence. The others labelled him a self-employed idiot. It was a pity, thought Morgan, that Bickerstaff couldn't be locked in a room with Dr. Goldberg/Parakarma; they might annihilate each other like electron and positron – the genius of one cancelling out the fundamental stupidity of the other.
What I really liked is the discussion of technical issues ranging from geographical and meteorological problems to astronomical difficulties that can encounter in building this huge tower. This was written in 1979 and the the reference of global internet search and social media blew my mind. You won't be disappointed if you are fan of science fiction. I won't be surprised but thrilled to watch this work on film.

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