cover image The Ghost from the Grand Banks

The Ghost from the Grand Banks

Arthur Charles Clarke. Spectra Books, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-07222-8

Setting his novel in the near future, close to the centennial of the 1912 sinking of the Titanic , SF luminary Clarke ( Childhood's End ) spins an initially ingenious scenario that only partially fulfills its potential. Two mammoth corporations strike a deal to raise the long-submerged luxury ocean liner. Parkinson's of London wants to recover a set of priceless Andrea Bellini glassware; Nippon-Turner is looking for publicity for a number of new products. Both intend to open underwater amusement parks; because the Titanic split in two parts upon sinking, each company will raise and exhibit half of the ship. But due to a variety of natural causes, the project goes awry. Clarke uses the attempted salvage operations as springboards from which to describe the technical, environmental and political changes in the year 2012. His skill as a raconteur and his accessible prose style are as engaging as ever, but his attempt to develop a secondary plot hinging on a mathematical game called the Mandelbrot Set takes the novel off course. The characters here lack dimension; and the various natural and personal disasters, which usually add to the tension, seem to be capriciously introduced without purpose. Though Clarke's speculations are both thought-provoking and entertaining, this work falls below his legendary best. (Nov.)