Imperial Earth

By Arthur C. Clarke

Rating: 4 stars

The ruling family of Titan are invited to Earth for the 500th anniversary of the American republic and the youngest scion, Duncan, is sent. As we follow his journey, we encounter politics, singularity-driven spaceships, zero-gravity sex, the wonder of seeing Earth with fresh eyes and more.

Starting on Titan, we get Clarke’s famously precise and yet poetic descriptions of the landscape and the technology needed to maintain life on that harsh, forbidding world. As Duncan travels to Earth we see some of his history and an old love affair as well as rivalry with an old friend. On Earth itself, as Duncan slowly adjusts to life at the bottom of a harsh gravity well he has the once in a lifetime opportunity to see the mother world with his own eyes, dabble in local politics and get try and figure out what his old friend/enemy Karl is up to.

Despite being written in the 1970s, at times this book has a real Golden Age optimistic feel to it. From the suggestion that nation states are outmoded and the few that remain are tolerated as eccentrics rather than any threat, to the tubes that link major cities in North America (something finally being seriously discussed) and the removal of the profit motive as the driving force behind much of Humanity, Clarke’s world is one that is infinitely better than our own. Throw in casual acceptance towards sexuality and relationships and this world of 2276 is sounding more and more appealing.

Duncan’s final speech in Congress, the speech that he’s travelled so far to make, is also tinged with Clarke’s trademark awe-inspiring wonder. Kilometre-long space-based radio telescopes beyond the solar ionosphere, speculation as to the sorts of things such telescopes might pick up and, above all, optimism for the future of Humanity.

I love this sort of stuff and Imperial Earth ends up being a very satisfying read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780330250047
Publisher: Pan
Year of publication: 1975

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