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Publisher's Summary

Vannemar Morgan's dream is to link Earth to the stars with the greatest engineering feat of all time: a 24,000-mile-high space elevator. But first he must solve a million technical, political, and economic problems while allaying the wrath of God. For the only possible site on the planet for Morgans Orbital Tower is the monastery atop the Sacred Mountain of Sri Kanda.
©1979 Arthur C. Clarke; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Hugo Award, Best Novel, 1980
  • Nebula Award, Best Novel, 1980

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This is hard Sci Fi. It was written in 1978, but is still very topical today. Just last year I listened to a lecture on the building of a Space Elevator which is what this book is all about. In the lecture this book was mentioned along with Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. Both books are hard Sci Fi. If you are wanting a good character driven story, then this is not the book for you. If you want facts, figures and like reading manuals on how to build things, then you will love this book.

114 of 120 people found this review helpful

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  • David
  • Halifax, NS, Canada
  • 11-16-11

A magical poem for geeks

If plot is your passion, don't read this book. The characters are cardboard and it has very little sense of conventional drama or progression. Instead, it's a beautifully-written description of the gradual construction of a space elevator, from the germ of the idea, to its ultimate fruition. Maybe Clarke should have just written a non-fiction book on the subject, but in practice his majestic descriptions are more thrilling within the context of a narrative, however clunky.

I like to think of this book as a prose poem, rather than a novel. Clarke uses the central idea as an opportunity to wax lyrical about human ambition and the urge for progress. He spins into the mix a tale of an ancient Sri Lankan king and an amazing description of humanity's encounter with a knowledge-disseminating alien spacecraft that passes through the solar system on its own mission of discovery.

The lack of drama in the plotting doesn't bother me, as I love Clarke's exploratory, thought-provoking ideas. The only awkward bit is the final third, which spends too much time on a tension-free, slow motion rescue mission on the tower.

The reader does a competent job although I was irritated by the indefinable accent that he gave to the main character.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

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Truly engaging

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Arthur Clark is so adept at bringing complex science to the masses and the concepts in Fountains of Paradise is no exception. The idea seems so audacious and futuristic that a space elevator could be created that it boggles the mind yet he describes it in such detail and loving attention that I kept thinking "why hasn't this already been done!" I love Clark's fascination with India and how he weaves his own passion for that regions culture and ideals into his books. It brings a depth of flavor to the story that other writers miss telling them with more traditional Anglo-Saxon backdrops. I can feel the spray of cool water and see the splendor of the gardens through his narrative and long to see this beautiful country. Space elevators are now almost common place in science fiction and hopefully someday the idea will have become a scientific reality to bring man to orbit and then to the stars. The narrator was engaging and I loved the flow of his performance, worth listening to again and again.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Both Great and Good

Arthur C. Clarke has written many great works, and this numbers among them.

Clarke's sci-fi is always based on reasonable extrapolations from the current science and research of the day. In this case, the idea of a space elevator has moved from pure sci-fi into the realm of the possible. This story primarily dwells on the geo-political issues associated with building the tower, without neglecting the technical issues surrounding the construction and is very believable.

In addition, the story is enjoyable. Well-written, well-paced, and the plot is well-designed. The characters are interesting and multi-dimensional.

Marc Vietor's narration is pretty good without being fantastic. He manages to portray the multiple voices and accents well without sounding like a cartoon and paces the narration well.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Human-focused science fiction

The Fountains of Paradise is a beautifully written account of one man's quest to achieve lifelong satisfaction through his works. The primary story is artfully juxtaposed with a parallel quasi-historical storyline. Perhaps Clarke's most underrated talent was his ability to get inside the minds of long-dead characters (see also: the first section of "2001").

Though technically "hard" science fiction, the primary focus of the narrative is on the characters, both future and ancient. The storytelling is deeply satisfying and, in a genre where endings are often pseudo-mystical cop-outs, this book leaves the listener content, with imagination sparked.

Marc Vietor's narration only enhances the experience. He reads thoughtfully and clearly, giving each character enough distinction to make the storytelling easy to follow.

36 of 40 people found this review helpful

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  • Katherine
  • St. Johns, FL, United States
  • 03-28-12

It???s a great time to revisit this classic

he latest scheme dreamed up by Dr. Vannevar Morgan, a materials engineer, is either pure genius or pure crackpot: He wants to build an elevator to space. He???s discovered a new material that he thinks is strong enough to withstand the gravitational and climatic forces that would act on such a structure and he???s found the only place on Earth where it???s possible to achieve his dream: the top of the mountain Sri Kanda on the equatorial island of Taprobane (pronounced ???top-ROB-oh-knee???). Unfortunately, this mountain is the sacred home of a sect of Buddhist monks who are not willing to budge unless one of their prophecies is fulfilled.

Dr. Morgan is not the first ambitious man to have grandiose plans for this particular summit. Hundreds of years before, King Kalidasa struggled with the same sect of monks when he built his pleasure gardens. His crowning achievement was the construction of ???The Fountains of Paradise,??? which utilized a pump system and slave labor to propel jets of water high into the sky. King Kalidasa???s pursuits and achievements foreshadow Dr. Morgan???s own desires for the same mountaintop. Both men have ostentatious goals that are ahead of their times, both are revered by some and ridiculed by others, both are plagued by the knowledge that they may die before seeing their dreams come true, and both must consider the possibility that there exists a higher power who may not look kindly upon such brazen displays of human pride and ambition.

The Fountains of Paradise was published in 1979 and won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards that year. The fictional setting is an alternative Sri Lanka, where Arthur C. Clarke lived the second half of his life, and King Kalidasa is based on a real Sri Lankan king.

The Fountains of Paradise is an exciting story that still feels fresh more than 30 years later. The clever juxtaposition of Morgan???s dreams with King Kalidasa???s similar pursuits adds much beauty and poignancy to the tale. Dr. Morgan doesn???t know about Kalidasa until he reaches Sri Kanda, but on the mountain, the grand king comes alive for him and, with Morgan, we experience the beauty of that ancient civilization.

In glorious contrast, we see Dr. Morgan???s stunning vision of Earth???s future ??? people quickly and inexpensively traveling back and forth to multiple space stations that orbit the Earth and are connected to the planet by Morgan???s elevators. This spectacular vision is especially plausible coming from Sir Arthur C. Clarke, whose contributions to the history of geostationary satellite communications is well-known and makes the reader wonder whether this implausible image may someday become reality, just like the fantastic dreams of Morgan and Kalidasa.

Thank you to Brilliance Audio for putting The Fountains of Paradise on audio. Marc Vietor???s narration is flawless and I enjoyed every moment of this production. It???s a great time to revisit this classic visionary novel.

26 of 29 people found this review helpful

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Human Obstacles

Technical, political and social obstacles obstruct a dream. These are overcome and the dream becomes reality...and a basis for further Arthur C. Clarke novels. This book is more about the obstacles and human foibles than the sci-fi. If you like that, you'll like the book.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert
  • Raleigh, NC, United States
  • 01-09-12

The Listen is better than the original read.

If you could sum up The Fountains of Paradise in three words, what would they be?

Fascinating future predictions.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Fountains of Paradise?

The ending

Which scene was your favorite?

Scenes, interactions among the characters.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

How long before this prediction becomes a reality.

Any additional comments?

I'm older now and have worked with some of the technical concepts that AC
Clark predicts in this novel. There are still some details to be worked out but some day this could happen.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Clash of old and new over an elevator

Arthur C Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise is a tale that has aged well. While the setting is a region nearly immunized against the passage of time, its geographic position also makes this area perfect for the base of a space elevator. While forces of the old and new clash over the project, Clarke adds some historical context for the region and its population. Both sabotage and nature manage to insert some drama as humanity's inevitable progress into space is related.

While the major sci-fi element revolves around the space elevator, which Clarke relates in vivid detail regarding engineering issues, the theme of technology overlying the old is dominant with pushback from both the locals who want to preserve their heritage as well as the established rocket oriented companies who want to protect their profits. Set in the 22nd century, Mars has been colonized. In addition, Clarke adds several prescient tidbits such as a dispersed internet, tablet devices, and wearable technology with medical applications. While the story is from the late 70's, the theme, plot, and sci-fi is as relevant today.

The narration is exceptionally well done with a solid range of voices, reasonable gender distinction and excellent pacing and tone.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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classic sci fi

This book introduces space elevators. Many mock the idea of such a structure. Still, the story inspired me to dream. It's style reminds me of Heinlein.

The narration was pleasant and easy to listen to.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful