Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Review: 2061 Odyssey Three by Arthur C. Clarke

2061: Odyssey Three by Arthur C. Clarke

*** Del Rey 271 pages

Major spoilers for all three books in the series, you were warned. So I have mixed feelings on this novel. I listened to the abridged audio book when it came out a million years ago. I decided to read this when I saw it and the final odyssey sitting on the shelf at the library. I thought it might give me a deeper experience to read this second sequel to his masterpiece 2001 as an adult. (By the way I think his masterpiece is Songs of a Distant Earth, I think most think 2001)

You may or may not be aware but Clarke and Kubrick created the film and the screenplay first for 2001. The novel ended up being released first due to special effects delays, but it’s hard to not think of that novel in relation to the film. The novel 2001 does not have as much of the awe and mystery of the film. That is not to say that the novel is not filled with mystery. That is just the nature of telling a story with words, you can leave as much to the imagination as you can in a film. Certainly we get more of a glimpse of the nature of the monoliths, the star child and the re-birth of Jupiter as a star. In the sequel 2010 Clarke threw more stunning revelations and creates one of the most powerful and original first contact stories in hard Science fiction.

We find out what happened to David Bowman, what the monoliths are sent out in the universe to do, and we see a glimpse of a species so powerful that they can explode a gas giant and turn it into a sun. They warn humanity…They can have every other world in the solar system but leave Europa alone. With the powerful ending 2010 continued to build Clarke’s amazing story. We were treated to a thinking person’s science fiction adventure and we got answers while still suggesting even deeper questions. Who are the aliens behind the monoliths? Why did they turn Jupiter into a star? Why is Europa off-limits?

I enjoyed reading 2061, consumed it quickly into two days (while still writing and reading another book) so I have to say it is a quick page turner. My problem with the book is I feel Clarke missed some huge chances for powerful high concept Sci-fi drama. The Adventure aspects of the story, the luxary space liner “universe” having to land and manipulate Halley’s comet to launch a desperate rescue mission was well done. That said something was missing.

The ship they are sent to rescue “the Galaxy,” has crashed in the new ocean on the former Jovian moon of Europa. (Is it still a moon since Jupiter got blown up and turned into a star?) This crashed ship is a big problem since the super powerful and complete mystery aliens warned Humans never to land on Europa.

Sixty years have passed and no word has come from the aliens. Europa was covered in ice, which is now melting into an ocean. Humans have noticed that a large mountain and several islands have cropped up, but there is no evidence of any intelligent life.

The reality is humanity in this concept has every reason to be FEAR the beings that can blow up a gas giant and warned them to stay away. So the terror and suspense possibilities available to a story teller when a human vessel is high jacked and crashed into the forbidden moon is endless, and much to my dismay unrealized.

Here come the huge spoilers…

Once the Galaxy crashes nothing really happens. No alien reaction. It doesn’t seem like sixty years after that warning that any one is even on Europa or cares. * It had seemed like a pretty stern warning. Clarke did a great job of building the fear mystery of the possible landing and when it happens…the novel falls flat.

It also feels that no great mysteries are answered at the end of this book. Not every novel has to end with a mind bending humanity changing revelation, but when you’re writing a sequel to two books that did end that way – it leaves part three feeling a little flat. I wanted to find out about the aliens behind the monoliths and it seems like I have to wait until 3001.

So yeah I enjoyed the novel, I would suggest you read it. That being said I felt like 2061 didn’t build on 2010 like that book did build on 2001.

*(So this is sorta explained in 3001. I read it since I wrote this review.)

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