Famous Towers in SF

Famous Towers of Science Fiction

I periodically draw inspiration from The Fantasy Review Barn, especially when Nathan posts his weekly Tours through Fantasy Land. The most recent post, about towers, piqued my interest. Towers are ubiquitous throughout fantasy; it seemed like there should be a few in SF as well. I’m probably forgetting many hugely obvious examples, since the finer details of most books have long since faded from memory, but here’s a small assortment. Maybe someone else will add to the list in a post of their own.

Blade RunnerThe Tyrell Corporation Tower. Looming above the Osaka-inspired cityscape is the double pyramid of the replicant creators, Tyrell Corp. This is fairly typical of SF towers: parts of vast cities rather than wizard’s towers alone in the forest. I probably don’t need to say anything else about Blade Runner, its urban aesthetic, or the effects it has had on subsequent SF.

Diamond Dogs (Alastair Reynolds) – The Blood Spire. Reynolds borrows from Algis Budrys’ classic Rogue Moon, and 95% of the D&D plots out there, as a party of characters, who may or may not have met in a tavern somewhere, try to solve the puzzles in a mysterious tower of unknown origin. Reynolds lets his trademark macabre imagination go wild as the puzzles and people twist themselves into creepier and more bizarre situations.

1633 (Eric Flint and David Weber) – The Tower of London. I suppose this may be cheating, since it’s the Tower of London and all, but Flint’s 1632 should count as SF. Alt history is SF, right? Even if Oliver Cromwell is involved?

California Voodoo Game (Larry Niven and Steven Barnes) – A defunct arcology. A reasonable SF analog to towers might be arcologies. In some ways, these can act as a future substitute for castles, though only as population centers. Niven has played with arcologies in a few different books, as have others, but this Dream Park novel is one of the few where the building itself is as important as many of the characters.

Terminal World (Alastair Reynolds) – Spearpoint. Reynolds again, with another diabolical tower. Spearpoint is tall enough that I can’t remember how tall it is, with multiple levels of habitation. Each level has its own technology level, strictly enforced through a mysterious mechanism, which takes the story through high tech SF, steampunk, horses, and a bathhouse owning gangster hooked up to a calliope.

Fountains of Paradise (Arthur C. Clarke) – The space elevator. We’re creeping further and further away from actual towers, but surely a space elevator counts. After all, it’s very tall, and has, er, elevators. Multiple prizes for this book, though the story itself is pretty low on plot and high on white men building large things.

What have I forgotten?

4 thoughts on “Famous Towers in SF

  1. I thought of the Reynolds Towers when I saw the title to this post. Other than those, I’m kinda stumped. I feel sure there should be a couple in the Hyperion Cantos but can’t recall any right now.

    Err… The tower block Neo and Trinity break Morpheus out of in The Matrix? Surely a dystopia or two must have some looming away in the background. Tougher than it looks, this one, and I think you hit on the reason in your last example. This is a genre where space elevators and Dyson spheres are commonplace. If you can throw a girdle round a star, just building what’s essentially a big pile of rocks doesn’t seem so impressive.

    • Ha! Good point. The Ringworld probably has giant skyscrapers on it, but who cares? I ended up focusing on cyberpunk in my search, but couldn’t remember anything that really, er, sticks out. Thought of Hyperion as well, but again, I can’t remember enough details.

  2. Is Flint any good? I like the idea of alt-history quite often but rarely actually enjoy it.

    Anyway, not sure I can think of any sci-fi towers which is strange because something is flirting with my memory in the very back of the mind.

    • Let me know if you remember. I get the feeling I am missing multiple obvious examples.

      Flint is pretty distinctive. Either 1632 or the Belisarius books should give a good idea if you like him or not. I really enjoyed them at the time, though there are things that annoy me at times.

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