The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Arthur C. Clarke posits in this novel that humankind will continue to explore the solar system and even establish a permanent presence on the Moon, Mercury, and Mars. The shuttles and rockets used to gain access to these new frontiers, however, will prove to be too expensive, inefficient, and destructive of the environment. A better way will have to be found to get people and material off the surface of Earth and into space.

Vannevar Morgan is the chief engineer (Land) of the Terran Construction Corporation. His primary claim to fame is building the Gibraltar Bridge, which spanned the fifteen kilometers across the Strait of Gibraltar in 2140. The ultimate challenge of his career becomes the creation of an elevator system linking Earth to space.

The first obstacle to be overcome is a community of Buddhist monks established at the top of Sri Kanda in the fictional southwest Asian land of Taprobane. Because of its height and equatorial location, this mountain is the ideal ground base for the Space Elevator. Unfortunately, the monks see the project as another Tower of Babel, demonstrating the futility of human pride. They refuse to budge.

A consortium of investors from Mars comes to the rescue. They invite Morgan to realize his dream on their planet, and he agrees. A demonstration of the basic principle involved is planned in order to attract additional funding. Forty thousand kilometers of hyperfilament thread are to be dropped from a...

(The entire section is 496 words.)