For Ranjit, the experiment was not so successful. Gamini was away, so he had no one to enjoy it with, and world news remained bad.I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this, Clarke's last book and Pohl's second last novel, both aged around 90 when it came out - particularly after bouncing off the recent John Le Carré. But in fact it is comforting home ground for Clarke fans, with perhaps a little hint of Pohl here and there. There are hat-tips to The Fountains of Paradise, Imperial Earth and Childhood's End; there is lots of deep love for a peacefully multiethnic Sri Lanka; there's a new solution to Fermat's Last Theorem (Pohl was fascinated by number theory); and there is an informal world government which is then held to account by tough-but-fair aliens and endangered by subversion from American securocrats who like indulging in extraordinary rendition. The writing is lucid and permeated with a love of humanity and of diversity.
There are a couple of major flaws. The biggest is that in a novel set apparently towards the end of the last decade, nobody has a mobile phone. Knowing what we do about Sri Lanka, some of the political scenery seems a little too idyllic. World conflicts apparently never involve the superpowers but only local actors. The end of the book loses focus as plot lines get resolved and new ideas briefly introduced. But I find all of this forgiveable in the last expression of Clarke's utopian vision of the future, assisted by Pohl.