(Fictional) great science fiction Nathan ArkwrightÂ started his career duringÂ the Golden Age of Science Fiction, and now he is isÂ dying. In the course of hisÂ long career and long retirement, he has seenÂ humanityÂ goÂ fromÂ being optimistic and visionary, dreaming of a bright future among the stars, to altogether more introverted and seemingly lacking in outward ambition. He decides to start a foundation with the aim of sending forth humanity among the stars.
The novel is episodic, with the first part retrospective on Arkwright himself, starting way back before WWII. Here, Steele has wovenÂ Arkwright’s life into that of the science fiction at the time, including encounters with many of the luminaries of that era. The whole thing is wonderfully meta.
Further episodes are aboutÂ future generations, descendants of the man himself, as they deal with challenges faced by the Arkwright FoundationÂ while constructing and launching the starshipÂ Galactique. The last episode delves more deeply into the future.
While the message is clear (“The Future is what we make of it.”), the novel is not preachy. The starship project is epic, but Mr. Steele makes it about the people involved and their personal dramas and tribulations. The feel of the novel is reminiscent of early Clarke, with its epic scale and sense of destiny. A great read.