I bought the book to learn more about space elevators and Arthur C. Clarke didn’t disappoint me there. Thirty-five years ago Clark imagined a time when Earthlings would find space travel available to the masses. How? By replacing rockets with an elevator moving straight up and down along hyperfilament thread held taught by an orbital anchor 31,000 miles up and a counterweight anchored in the ground on the equator.
The magnificent part of this story is that his vision may become a reality by the middle of the twenty-first century–and using some of the same materials and procedures so descriptively laid out in The Fountains. Clarke doesn’t weave a story of magic; he shows just how difficult it will be. But it will be worth the cost and effort when humans need to escape from our planet.
Yes, Clarke does include a peek far into the future where the Starholme return to Earth at the site of the Elevator (they’re not evil aliens, though). What makes this novel mind-boggling was the other end of the time traveling. Clarke also lets us look way back to the time this same site was the home of Kalidasa, a doomed king who created astounding engineering feats as his legacy.
One astounding feat was enough for me! Including both the far past and very distant future seemed to distract from the focal point, the amazing science in fiction called a Space Elevator.
I recently looked way back in time to a point where humans were emerging from a much less recognizable state and then to the recent past which made it possible to confirm the innocence of a prisoner. Actually, I only saw these events through the eyes of authors Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter who wrote “The Light of Other Days.” And they were not even suggesting their characters were time traveling in the sense they could be part of history; the book’s characters were only glimpsing past events through a WormCam, technology that opened worm holes spanning not only space but time—into the past.
Movies have given us some wonderful images and machines for time travel. Consider these top five views ranked on their basis in science and feasibility by a professor of physics, Ron Mallett.
For those who choose to believe in the feasibility of time travel in our lifetime, even dreaming of being one of the first “travelers,” your hopes have been dashed by this week’s announcement by a group of physicists at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and quoted in Discovery News: “By showing a single photon cannot travel faster than the speed of light, scientists prove time travel is impossible.” http://news.discovery.com/space/time-travel-impossible-photon-110724.html
Since I have rarely studied anything remotely related to scientific theory (unless I can count my science fiction reading), I am not going to suggest that scientists should think farther out of the box. Moving our bodies through time and distant space may not be more than creative dreaming, but I can conceive of traveling backwards and forwards in time in our spirits. In fact, my book tells of an angel accompanying my protagonist back in time to his life’s turning points:
Free my body from this comatose state and let’s get going.”
“No, Kirk, I did not suggest that. The adventure I offered you takes place only in the spirit. Your body will remain where it is. We will be traveling back through your life, revisiting some of your high and low points.”
“That’s preposterous! Why, that’s the stuff of science fiction novels. How am I supposed to believe you?”
“Why is traveling back in time in the spirit less possible than having this conversation with me while no part of your physical body is engaged?” Zachri went on. “These episodes from your past may seem like a theatrical performance, but you will be playing yourself. Some of the characters in your life’s play are the original stars; others will be ‘seconds’ but you won’t be able to tell the difference. You see, once humans have crossed over, they are fused together as into one puzzle, creating one image. But their individuality is preserved. This ability is inexplicable to humans who see themselves as wholly separate individuals, never fully making contact with others—even those they love most dearly.”
“What you’re saying is utterly confusing. How can individuals fuse into one image and still be individuals? I understand that each puzzle piece must be in its designated place to complete the puzzle’s visual image. But relating puzzles to what happens after we die is a very strange metaphor!”
“The only way I can answer some of your questions is to use simple human objects to reveal what you cannot fully comprehend.”
“OK, Zachri, that was the easier question and I’ll just let it go with your object lesson. The more disturbing question is the other one. Why must we revisit events in my life? By the way, I don’t agree with you about never fully making contact with another person. Even though Janie and I haven’t been face-to-face often, we have become exceptionally close—soul mates—although I never appreciated that term until I met her.”
“Kirk, do you remember reading the story of Job in the Bible?”
“Yes, I read it, but not for many years. I used to attend an Episcopal church, although I only did it because I had an image to maintain as a senior manager of a bank. We were all expected to do whatever it took to be perceived as upstanding, contributing members of the community.”
With a sudden look of apprehension, Kirk said, “What does reading the Bible have to do with the question I just asked? Is that why you’re here, to test my memory? Oh my God, you’re not here to test my faith!”
“Kirk, in chapter 38 the Lord says to Job: Brace yourself like a man: I will question you, and you shall answer me. As you admitted, you have not been following God, the one I referred to as your Maker, these last few years. Your time of reckoning has come. Your life is in the balance. Your physical condition is much more serious than you have acknowledged to your son or to Janie—or even to yourself.
But do not fear: this is not a time for punishment but a time for healing.
I promise to use this site to encourage, train and learn from my readers how to “be the change we wish to see in the world.” Focusing on engaging writing and enchanting reading, especially speculative fiction that not only entertains, but beckons readers to think more deeply about issues, I hope to provide the stimulus for impassioned discussions.Your responses are vitally important because if I am only talking to myself, how will I know when I am wrong...