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  • The Fountains of Paradise

  • By: Arthur C. Clarke
  • Narrated by: Mike Grady
  • Length: 8 hrs and 57 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (121 ratings)

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Summary

In the 22nd century visionary scientist Vannevar Morgan conceives the most grandiose engineering project of all time, and one which will revolutionise the future of humankind in space: a Space Elevator, 36,000 kilometres high, anchored to an equatorial island in the Indian Ocean.

©1979 Arthur C. Clarke (P)2013 W F Howes Ltd

What listeners say about The Fountains of Paradise

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Arthur C Clarke at his best

Fantastic story fantastically read. One of the best audio books I have listened to. And I've listened to a lot!

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A truly accomplished novel, brilliant!

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

Big, bold and Brilliant!

Who was your favorite character and why?

There are a few likable characters in this book, however the protagonist, Morgan steals the show. Clarke managers to make me feel for this person and ultimately further invest my emotions into the story and where it may lead.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The building of the space elevator was among many scenes in this book that are truly brilliant in scope. The ending was also unexpected and equally excellent.

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

One step to the stars.

Any additional comments?

Would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who loves science fiction as much as me.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Inspired idea, uninspiring story

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I don't think it works very well as a novel, but would work wonderfully as a speculative schematic - something along the lines of the Haynes Manual for the Death Star, but more serious, with loads of diagrams and some (optional) mathematics, and materials science that compares what's currently available with what's needed.

(Obviously this wouldn't work as an audiobook.)

But as a novel it's not so successful. We have a central idea which is simply brilliant, but what to do with it? So we get an account of the problems, solutions, setbacks and successes of building a space elevator. This is padded out with speculations that were probably radical at the time (why oh why didn't I read the paperback when I bought it back in 1980?) but are now so dated they aren't even quaint.

I've come to believe that space travel is ten times harder than the most pessimistic estimates, and Clarke was one of the most optimistic. Which was fair enough at the time - the Moon landings and Skylab were still fairly recent, we'd had probes send pictures back from the surface of Mars and Venus, close-up views of Jupiter (and Saturn in the near future), and a space shuttle under development.

But I've worked in engineering since I devoured Clarke's key works, and whenever a character announces they are ahead of schedule or under budget or that a material performs better than expected, it rings a false note for me.

Furthermore, Clarke tends to populate his novels with rather similar people. In Fountains, he sort of anticipates the internet troll, but doesn't consider that the technology will be available to everyone, including people who tend to favour foaming-at-the-mouth rage over friendly and intelligent jibing..

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

The ending proper was surprisingly moving, considering the characters were mainly talking heads. That was followed by an epilogue which was pleasant enough, but only tenuously (or perhaps thematically) linked to the main story - which is fine as the prologue can be similarly described.

What about Mike Grady’s performance did you like?

He read clearly, and made some effort to differentiate voices.

Could you see The Fountains of Paradise being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

Yes - I just hope it doesn't turn into the desperate snorefest that was Childhood's End.

Any additional comments?

I'm pleased to see Charles Sheffield's take on the same idea, The Web Between The Worlds, is also available from Audible. I will be interesting to compare the two, given that they both came out the same year.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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true science-fiction

Morgan, as a character, was very enjoyable. His determination and talent in the story made him feel like someone that really would exist. The niggling idea that his only legacy would be the Gibraltar Bridge eventually led him to restart the space lift project. The engineering and physics side to the story were very enjoyable too, as was the conflict between religion & spiritual life and progress. Overall it is well worth a listen.

1 person found this helpful

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Good book if a little unexciting,

Not a huge number of twists and turns so a little dull but an interesting idea of how the first space elevator will be built

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Clarke setting the focus for our future once again

As this was first published 32 years ago in 1979, we are treated again to the wonderful insight that Clarke brought to us in his fantasy of predictions that may look stunted in 2021 but nevertheless pays tribute once again to his genius.
A wonderful kaleidoscope of future wonders with so much realised as we look from beyond and a fair chunk to spur us with hope for the future.
A master of detail and construction Clarke fills the plot with reality of action, and plausibility in abundance - an interweaving of personal stories that pull us onward into a thrilling conclusion.
With recent automated landings on Mars in this decade we wonder just how long it will be before fiction once again becomes reality.
So thankful that Clarke’s classics are brought to life afresh with the narration of a consummate professional.

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    5 out of 5 stars

A wondeful sci-cum-history book, classic AC!

If you have ever been to enchanting Sigiriya, central Sri Lanka, this book would be doubly appreciated as it is set around that rock, gardens and its history... A wonderful novel that intertwines real history in various forms, a grandiose technical engineering project (and visionary topic for 1980), an excellent audible ("British") narration too (thankfully not an American reciting) but only marred abit by bad pronunciations of local language names and terms (quaint is not the word!), alas. The narrator, who I like alot, would have done better to talk to any Sri Lankan before his attempt as it would have really topped off this anyway lovely audio book.

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    3 out of 5 stars

Fantastic ideas, lacking story

Arthur C Clark presents some incredible ideas and concepts, but I get the feeling that he didn't quite know how to tie it together into a satisfying story. It seems to jump forward randomly and then spends a lot of time on a rescue mission before it just kind of ends. And the starglider stuff seems like it should have been a whole different story. The epilogue feels like he attempted to sum up what should have been a book series into a single chapter.

What is there is very well written and the descriptions are great, it just doesn't feel finished.

The audio narration is excellent. The character voices well acted and the tone and pacing perfect.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Difficult start, but a great middle and end

I haven't listened to many novels through audio books for the fear of being able to piece it together as quickly as it was read to me. While the first few chapters of this did raise such an issue and I did consider not listening on, I'm very happy that I did and found it to be a great book for sci-fi fans or even just engineering fans