Clarke, Arthur C. The Fountains of Paradise

The Fountains of Paradise - Front Cover

The Fountains of Paradise is a novel written by Arthur C. Clarke, which in 1980 won the Hugo and Nebula science fiction awards.

Based around a technological breakthrough, it enables the construction of a space elevator. It consists of a point on the ground connected to another point in fixed orbit such as a satellite using a tether line. Platforms such as this can then rise or descend between these two points.

The benefits are obvious; there would be no need for expensive and air polluting rockets, and therefore it would be a better way to travel into space.

The story in this book explores the idea of transforming a civilisation through a scientific breakthrough.

The beauty of any successful sci-fi at its core is something that many people desire; that there is a technological breakthrough that frees humanity from the shackles of poverty, economics, disease, and global inflation, and he ascends into the stars finally realising his true purpose. In Star Trek, the invention of the Warp Drive unites humanity, in a way that was never before possible.

In this story, the technological breakthrough was the filament thread, which was microns in thickness, yet paradoxically could support large weights.

On page 54, Arthur C. Clarke describes the material of the thread as being a pseudo one-dimensional diamond crystal produced in gravity-free environments, such as an Earth-orbiting factory. He goes on to describe the material as not having pure carbon content, but also containing important trace elements. This technological breakthrough is the result of 200 years of research in Solid State Physics.

In the preface of this book, he quotes an extract from Jawaharlal Nehru's speech: "Politics and religion are obsolete; the time has come for spirituality and science".

Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke saw himself as a visionary thinker, and felt that science and spirituality were the future of humankind. His vision was to see that humanity work together, and progress into the stars. He believed that politics and religion brought out the worst in humanity.

The story is set into the future in 2142 AD where the main character Vannevar Morgan discovers the thread. As an engineer and a scientist, he proposes the construction of the Space Elevator.

As these things go, there is always opposition, and his struggle begins. I thought the idea was an interesting one and currently NASA is proposing just such an elevator!


TitleThe Fountains of Paradise
AuthorArthur C. Clarke
PublisherBook Club Associates
ISBN NumberCN6530
First Printed1979
Copyright HolderArthur C. Clarke
Cover PictureTerry Oakes
Last Page270
AvailabilityAmazon and all good online bookstores