The idea for an Orbital Tower, or Space Elevator, was first proposed by a Leningrad engineer named Yuri Artsutonov in 1960. It was independently reinvented in different places at least three more times in the next fifteen years. Perhaps the project will not get started within two hundred years, as envisioned in The Fountains of Paradise, but endorsement by Clarke guarantees that the concept will be taken seriously.
Clarke is the well-known author of such science-fiction classics as Childhoods End (1953) and Rendezvous with Rama (1973). He collaborated with film director Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). As a scientist, he is credited with nothing less than the invention of satellite communications, an idea he proposed in an article published in 1945.
The Fountains of Paradise effectively dramatizes the technological problems likely to be encountered in building a forty-thousand-kilometer bridge to the stars. Beyond this remarkable accomplishment, however, the novel develops at least two important literary themes. The protagonist, Morgan, is a study in the nature of heroism. He is a sympathetic version of Mary Shelleys Dr. Frankenstein; he takes little interest or pleasure in people except insofar as they may contribute to attaining his goal. Readers are told that Morgan has long since made the choice between work and life that is required at the highest levels of human achievement....
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