Imperial Earth by Arthur C. Clarke
Duncan Makenzie is the third generation Makenzie clone to live on the Saturn moon Titan. His grandfather/twin, Malcolm Makenzie, was one of the settlers and mover and shaker of the colony when it was first established. Even now, seventy years later, the colony on Titan is small and growing. It is still a frontier in 2276. The Makenzies have a genetic disorder that prevents them from having normal children, so must clone if they want the family to continue. Cloning is not the normal solution, though. Duncan is happily married to a woman with children fathered by other men.
Duncan was born on Earth and taken to Titan by his father/twin while he was a baby. As a boy he became close friends with Karl Helmut, from another prominent family on Titan. The two separated as young men – due to a woman, of course. Now they are cordial friends but little more.
The old United States on Earth is celebrating their 500th centennial. Duncan is going to Earth as the Titan representative to speak at the celebration. He also is going for a fourth generation Makenzie. It will be his only chance to visit Earth. In a few more years he will be too old to be able to adjust to Earth’s gravity. This is his chance to visit the planet that dominates the Solar System. Will he be a colonial rustic there? What will he say to these people in his speech? And will he be able to connect with the woman who was the object of his teen aged infatuation?
Arthur C. Clarke has used Imperial Earth to give the reader an interesting viewpoint of our future. We get to see future Earth through a human visitor’s eyes. Duncan knows of and understands the culture. But Earth is nothing like Titan geologically, environmentally or socially. Earth has recovered from the damage it did to itself in the 20th and 21st centuries. We see the regrowth of the environment. Duncan has misgivings about expanses of water because there is nothing similar on Titan. He has to deal with his extra “weight” due to the gravity throughout his stay. The whole Earth is at peace with the normal sins of mankind not being allowed to escalate. Man has extended colonies to the Moon, Mars, and Titan, and has explored the rest of the Solar System as well.
Imperial Earth is a reflective novel. There isn’t any life or death conflict, or any major threat to be overcome. It isn’t a utopic society. Human frailties and sins are still present, but handled quickly when affecting society. Instead Clarke is looking towards an achievable future where mankind is still extending itself and discovering itself. He has a future vision that is positive and achievable with the right technologies and scientific discoveries.
Arthur C. Clarke wrote this novel right before the American bicentennial, so the space history stops with the Apollo program other than the occasional “future history” alluded two in a few places. That doesn’t detract from the book. This is a quiet novel that has good personal interaction to further the story.