It's been too long since I read an Arthur C Clarke book, before I even started reviewing in fact and so when the opportunity presented itself to review The Ghost from the Grand Banks I jumped at the chance.
This is one of Clarkes later novels, published in 1990 and the story revolves around the recovery of the Titanic which is being exhumed as part of the memorial service marking a century beneath the waves - which co-incidentally is actually next year, 2012. The book is split into four parts of which the first part "Prelude" sets the scene, building the history of this "future" world - which actually starts in 2010 - and gives some flesh to the main characters.
Jason Bradley is the main protagonist, a very rich and famous engineer who takes on the role of project manager for the International Seabed Authority to oversee the two separate salvage companies who are each set to raise half of the Titanic from the Grand Banks. The other 3 parts "Preparations", "Operations" and "Finale" pretty much speak for themselves and I am not going to give any details away lest I spoil the story for anyone. What I will say though is that the blurb on the back is actually pretty miss-leading and could have been written much better.
One of the things that Clarke did really well was predict future technology, he was a highly accomplished futurist and you can still see evidence of this here, flat screen TV's in high definition, miniature computers and even head up displays - although in the real world they are not really mass market yet. There is also a nice little piece about the Y2K bug (or "Century Syndrome" as Clarke called it) working in the IT industry I remember the panic and almost hysteria that this potential problem seemed to cause in some people, in the end it proved pretty much a damp squib and very little exploded or indeed went wrong. It somehow makes you feel a little older reading about an event that isn't due to happen for 10 years when the author has written it and yet for the reader happened nearly 12 years ago.
The Ghost from the Grand Banks feels like a novel that was written much than 1990, it's very much like one of the authors earlier works and has the same relaxed, almost sedate pace and unhurried narrative. I still can't make my mind up if that is a criticism or praise but I am leaning towards the latter. The ending and epilogue is pretty unexpected and somehow very fitting while the afterword by the author himself is great, a powerful message that regardless of what we do it's the earth itself that decides our fate.
I wouldn't say this was one of Clarke's best works - although that is a bit like saying that the 458 Spider isn't the best Ferrari - The Ghost from the Grand Banks should really appeal to any fan of Arthur C Clarke and for that matter any fan of classic science fiction.
Written on Thursday 22nd December 2011 by Antony Jones.
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