Saturday, May 19, 2007

"Imperial Earth" (novel): Good book, notwithstanding the juvenile title

I kept postponing this book because of title. Sounds like one of those space empire stories. But the title is totally inappropriate. This is a story about very ordinary politics & diplomacy, in a rather exotic environment. And quite readable.

Story summary (spoiler).
There are three parts to the plot: a description of the life in a human colony on Titan (a moon of Saturn); a description of space voyage from Titan to Earth in a passenger liner; & the life on earth just a little before the year 3000 AD - time where the story is set.

Note that "3001 The Final Odyssey" is also set about the year 3000 AD. But I find Imperial Earth's descriptions far more realistic. In spite of rocket engines powered by man-made black holes, & people on earth living underground because it is much cheaper to melt the earth's crust than build over ground structures!

Duncan, the main protagonist, is a third generation clone & Titan resident. His grandfather clone made the colony viable by mining hydrogen far more cheaply there than on earth; & hydrogen is a popular jet propellent used in interplanetary ships. The family is very powerful among the Titan's ruling elite.

The voyage to earth is in a cylindrical (I think) ship with multiple levels (7 or 10 levels, I think). Aspects of voyage are described in painstaking detail, reminiscent of "Rendezvous with Rama" - though Rama was a very different kind of ship & story.

And this ship is powered with an engine that contains a tiny man-made black hole that sucks in large quantities of hydrogen, & releases energy that is then tapped!

Description of life on earth of about 3000 AD is fantastic (of course), but far less fantastic than in "3001 The Final Odyssey". We are also given a tour of Titanic, the ancient lost ship that has now been hauled from Atlantic bottom to New York & is a museum piece.

Among the many other wonders are a visit to a lagoon in Mediterranean with bio-engineered marine life that can mine gold from sea water (aka "The Man Who Ploghed the Sea"), & a design for supermassive antenna (comprising of linear elements) to search for extra-terrestrial life that will work on one of the outer moons of Saturn, but no closer to Sun, because of solar effects.

Key characters.

  1. Duncan Mackenzie: Main protagonist, a third generation clone, & a member of the first family of human colony on Titan.
  2. Karl: Minor role as a friend of Duncan; but their relationship is a love/hate mix.
  3. Calindy: Common girlfriend of Duncan & Karl. Said to be a very smart woman.
  4. George Washington: Guide of Duncan on earth.
  5. Malcolm Mackenzie: Grandfather clone of Duncan, & a business & political hero on Titan.
  6. Colin Mackenzie: Father clone of Duncan.
  7. Aunt Ellen: Separated wife of Malcolm, & aunt to Duncan. Minor role.
Fact sheet.
Imperial Earth, novel, review
Author: Arthur C Clarke
First published: 1976
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: A

See also.
  1. "The Man Who Ploghed the Sea": This novel includes a variant of this story. Rather than a mechanical device that can mine arbitrary metals from sea water, this novel has a story of genetically engineered marine life to mine gold from the sea water.
  2. "3001 The Final Odyssey": This novel also describes the life around the year 3000 AD. But I find the Imperial Earth description more realistic.
  3. "The Ghost from the Grand Banks" has a Titanic salvage operation that will eventually make it a museum piece in Florida in US. Imperial Earth not only has a chapter titled "The Ghost from the Grand Banks", it actually has salvaged Titanic as part of a museum in New York.

1 comment:

Ankur said...

[Off-topic] The more I read A.Clarke he looks like a champion of Nonmonogamy ... anyways to each his own