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  1. #1
    Seeker of Stuff Moderator Kamakhya's Avatar
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    April BOTM: The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke

    Let the discussion begin on this classic novel by a SF Master.

  2. #2
    BookWyrm Archren's Avatar
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    As with all Arthur C. Clarke, I was surprised by how much I liked this book. His writing style is so simple, but it just sucks me in. I really was curious about what was going to happen next. He throws the most interesting obstacles at his characters, even if sometimes it feels a little random. He has a weird sense of plotting, but I like it. It seems more like real life.

    When he writes about the protagonist's vision of the future towards the end of the book, it really moved me, also. There was real, genuine emotion there.

    In my view, I rank this right up with "Rendevous with Rama", although "2010" & "Childhood's End" still rank at the very top of my "Favorite Arthur C. Clarke Books" list.

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    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    For those who don't know, this was published in 1979/80, after Imperial Earth and at the time was seen by many, including perhaps himself, as his swansong. It was a book many years in the writing, and is clearly one which reflects his own personal beliefs very strongly.

    "It's the most ambitious thing I have ever done", he said at the time. "Everything is in it: Buddhist philosophy, ancient history, the ultimate space transport system. It's my magnum opus..."

    It was widely regarded at the time as the last fiction he would write. He had just completed his TV series 'The Mysterious World of Arthur C Clarke' and the 'Strange Powers' series and saw this and science fact articles as the way forward, rather like Asimov at the time. He was settling in full time at his home in Sri Lanka and was seriously contemplating only writing when he really wanted to, rather than because he had to.

    With that context, the book is one which Clarke really felt he needed to write. IMO it clearly shows Clarke's strengths and weaknesses.

    The story is both wideranging and intimate, with global perspectives combined with small scale vignettes of island/temple life. IMO Clarke's characters are still rather sketchy (as is his style) but there is more fleshing out here than in many of his earlier books. He has tried to give them more character than many of his previous works, I think. As Archen has said, the ending is both sad and poignant.

    As usual, Clarke's characters are dwarfed by the ideas - the role of philosophy and religion in society are combined with the implications of the 'superscience' (the space elevator) - another common Clarke theme.

    It is relatively short, yet readable. On rereading it I still found that I wanted to keep reading - the sign of a good read. His prose is precise yet at times annoyingly brief. At times Clarke lectures, though this is part of his style and one of his ways of developing that sense of wonder so prevalent in his work. There is also a nice sense of understated (dare I say British?) humour in places in the book, characteristic in much of Clarke's work.

    As is pretty obvious I guess, I am a big Clarke fan and this one IMO hits all the right buttons. Though I still think that much of his better work is his short fiction (which is more suitable to his style) this is one of his better novel works - up there with Rendezvous with Rama, The City and the Stars, Childhood's End and yes, 2001. It won the 1979 Nebula and Hugo in 1980 for best novel, though perhaps these were partly swayed by the idea that this was Clarke's last. He went on to write 2010 in 1982 - a rather unexpected return at first.

    Though I can sympathise with, and to a degree, agree with those who don't like his style, find it linear and perhaps academic - there's still something there that I really like.

    Hobbit
    Mark

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    Though it has been ages, since I read this wonderful novel. I still feel, just thinking about it, that I could see everything that wnet thru the protagonists mind. No, I don't remember it for its poetic words or deep characters, but the idea of reaching for the stars...your dreams..your whatever, made this a very fast read for me. I think that I should revisit this book; because I liked this one the best out of all the ones that I had by him. Until I Fountains, I thought Childhood's End was his most poignant of his novels.

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    Following a string of exhausting reads, Fountains of Paradise was a wonderful change of pace. I'm a big fan of Clarke's more succint prose style. He accomplishes in a mere sentences what takes a lot of younger writers pages upon pages to convey. As I was reading this novel, I immediately flashed back to Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars and the description of the space elevator disaster in that book. Clearly, Robinsons owes something to Clarke (and the fact that, if I remember correctly, he named a section of Mars after him in his trilogy suggests as much), but I found Clarke's account of his space elevator disaster (written some twenty years earlier) just as compelling.

    Granted, his characters are a little thin, but he does the "big picture" stuff so well that you almost forgive him this shortcoming.

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    sorry to say, i don't feel like that

    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbit View Post
    As usual, Clarke's characters are dwarfed by the ideas - the role of philosophy and religion in society are combined with the implications of the 'superscience' (the space elevator) - another common Clarke theme.
    IMO, the characters in this story aren't dwarfed... or yes, they are, just because any character/person get dwarfed by such epical events, and this weakness makes them splendidly human
    the same appearance of the Starplane (I beg your pardon, I'm just translating the name from the Italian version) makes the humanity so splendidly small and frail

    actually, I liked it far more than "the city and the stars"

    and I loved the scene in Sri Lanka, maybe because its nice to be there and dream of the Past and SF altogether...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kamakhya View Post
    Let the discussion begin on this classic novel by a SF Master.
    Probably the one and only, master of scifi.

    I would like to know if there are any other authors with a similar writing technique.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve04 View Post
    Probably the one and only, master of scifi.

    I would like to know if there are any other authors with a similar writing technique.
    Possibly, Samuel R. Delany. Try his Dhalgren novel or Brian Aldriss(sp?).

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    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    I would like to know if there are any other authors with a similar writing technique.
    Well, the obvious answer there, Steve, is Stephen Baxter. His collaborations with ACC are pretty good (with the exception of The Light of Other Days, which I really didn't like.)

    Mark
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    There are people out there who are seriously considering building a space elevator, but instead of a cable, they start out with a ribbon.

  11. #11
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    And in the last Stephen Baxter/ ACC collaborations, if I remember right, they were using ribbons.... but thanks for the point, Tom.

    Mark
    Mark

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