About as Much Substance as You’d Expect

…from a ghost.

Con­tin­u­ing the “time to fit the books into the book­cas­es” project, I read Arthur C. Clarke’s The Ghost From the Grand Banks. I believe I picked this up a few years ago at a library book sale where one walked out with a gro­cery sack of books for a dol­lar or two. I own many books by Clarke and he was cer­tain­ly a favorite when I was young and that is why I bought this.

It turns out that I have read this pre­vi­ous­ly, but it is so for­get­table that I forgot.

Briefly, the book cov­ers the race between two enter­pris­es to raise the Titan­ic in 2012, the 100 year anniver­sary of the sink­ing. Clarke comes up with two com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent con­cepts on how the ship might be raised. I’ll refrain from giv­ing away how and whether they work. There is lit­tle char­ac­ter devel­op­ment and the slight­est bit of suspense.

A few weeks ago, I caught some parts of an old movie on TCM, the title of which I do not remem­ber. I do remem­ber a scene where the lit­er­ary crit­ic ren­ders his ver­dict on the pro­tag­o­nist’s just pub­lished nov­el. The crit­ic spent some time on how the book was filled out with wide mar­gins and oth­er tricks to at least look like a real nov­el even though it was bare­ly more than a short story.

The Ghost From the Grand Banks runs 253 pages with ten pages of title, copy­right, con­tents, etc.; sev­en plus pages of Sources and Acknowl­edg­ments and a twelve page appen­dix that is adapt­ed from a lec­ture Clarke gave on Man­del­brot num­bers. Man­del­brot num­bers do appear in the book, but not in any way that is nec­es­sary to the plot.

So the book runs 284 pages. There are four parts, each of which is begun with a full page for the title of the part. There are 44 chap­ters with each chap­ter title tak­ing up half a page. There are 28 com­plete­ly blank pages found between the chap­ters, insert­ed wher­ev­er nec­es­sary to push the new chap­ter to the odd num­bered page. That totals 54 of the 284 pages that are blank. The mar­gins are wide. Many chap­ters end with just a few lines on the last page.

Final­ly, the paper is thick. The Com­plete Poet­i­cal Works of Eliz­a­beth Bar­rett Brown­ing is a bit less than one eighth of an inch thick­er and it runs 566 pages (dou­ble). The Plutarch vol­ume of the Great Books of the West­ern World series is the same thick­ness and it runs 905 pages (triple).

I would say that it is too bad The Ghost of the Grand Banks did not go to the same length as the pub­lish­er went to to hide it’s brevi­ty, but more of this book would not be better.

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