Arthur C. Clarke is one of the masters of hard science fiction. His ability to write stories that examine plausible or possible technology makes for stories that are impressive and in The Foundations of Paradise he writes about one of the most interesting and innovative pieces of science fiction technology ever, the space elevator and the introduction of that idea to the masses is almost certainly the major reason that this story won the Hugo because beyond that idea the major story here is a conflict between ancient and modern culture because the only real place that the space elevator in this story can be placed also has a temple that has been there for centuries.
The truth is that while the conflict in this story helps the real story is the space elevator and the difficulties and importance of that technology. What is impressive about this is that many of the ideas that came so early. I don’t know the history of the technologies well enough to know how advanced the ideas were but talking about using carbon wires is impressive because people who talk about the idea of the space elevator now still talk about carbon fibers.
Most of the story is the difficulty not only of the engineering but the politics of creating the most massive engineering feat of all time. This examination of this in the story is vital because of the importance of the idea. This is because the understanding that being able to get easily off the ground of earth opens up the solar system to humans in a way rockets never can. This means that even though it would be difficult and even dangerous to build this the far more dangerous thing is to leave humans trapped on earth.
The truth is that I didn’t care all that much for this story. I didn’t really care about the characters all that much and the story fell flat. That doesn’t matter a lot though because it is the technology that rules this story in my opinion. It is explored in a number of ways from the drawing board, on mars and even in failure and each of them make the idea seem more real and more interesting so if the exploration of technology is what you look for in science fiction this is a great novel, but if story and character are king this isn’t a story you’re going to love.