Book Review – 3001: The Final Odyssey

30013001: The Final Odyssey

Author: Arthur C. Clarke

Series: Space Odyssey #4

Genre: Science Fiction

Published 1997

Review Copy: Paperback bought new

Overall Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

Goodreads Description

One thousand years after the Jupiter mission to explore the mysterious Monolith had been destroyed, after Dave Bowman was transformed into the Star Child, Frank Poole drifted in space, frozen and forgotten, leaving the supercomputer HAL inoperable. But now Poole has returned to life, awakening in a world far different from the one he left behind–and just as the Monolith may be stirring once again…

Review

3001: The Final Odyssey is the fourth and final book in Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey series.  It concludes the story more than a thousand years after it began.  You’d think it would be an adventure to see an amazing future.  Well, there was something major missing.

The story is actually quite simple.  Frank Poole has been revived after drifting through space and has to learn a lot about this new time.  He spends much of his time being a kind of celebrity, but finally does go to Ganymede and check out Europa.  The story moves slowly without much happening, other than his daily life and learning new technologies. There’s been a shift in language, so he has to learn that, too.  He also learns about what happened to Jupiter, Dave Bowman, and HAL.  And of course, talking to Dave is his goal.

Frank doesn’t really stand out much.  He’s a very analytical person, but he seems to go with the flow a lot.  He’s always very accepting of every situation.  His main friend is Dr. Indra Wallace, a woman fluent in 21st century English, and the person assigned to help him with his transition.  Their friendship grows quite strong.  Dimitri Chandler is an old-fashioned spaceship Captain who also befriended Frank.  He’s a bit rebellious and I felt was a bit of a bright spot in this book.  He wasn’t very plain and liked adventure.  And then there’s Ted Khan, an old friend of Indra’s, and a man who absolutely loves having Frank to talk to.  He lives on Ganymede and is a kind of philosopher.  He has an intense interest in Europa.  And finally, Dave Bowman and HAL are just shades of their former selves.  They basically have no personality.

The setting is quite interesting.  The Earth has four very tall towers that go out to the geostationary orbit level.  We get to see a lot of this, as half the book is spent there.  Very imaginative, and I’d love to explore it myself.  The other half is on Ganymede and Europa.  I didn’t get as good a feeling about Europa as I did in 2061.  Not particularly enthralling.

The story itself was the thing that disappointed me the most.  While reading about Frank learning all about the way Earth was in the 31st century was interesting, any kind of conflict that happened was met with calmness and acceptance.  In fact, there seemed to be nothing adverse at all.  All experiences were positive, lacking in any kind of tension.  The biggest threat of the Monolith was handled in such a way that seemed like the easy way out with little to worry about.  There was absolutely no tension!  2001 had a lot of tension. 2010 had plenty, as well.  2061 also had a lot of tension.  But this book had none.  I was completely let down by the ending.  It’s like Clarke wasn’t even trying.

So, from an amazing start in 2001 to a good sequel in 2010, then a decent third book in 2061, we have a final volume in 3001 that makes me just want to say, “meh.”  I give this a 2 1/2 out of 5 stars.  Recommended?  Maybe, if you like overly optimistic science fiction about a society that seems rather uninteresting to live in despite the amazing technology.

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9 thoughts on “Book Review – 3001: The Final Odyssey”

  1. Sadly I agree with your review. I love Clarke. So much of how I look at the world in terms of science and science fiction has in some large way been influenced by him. That being said 3001 was a very poor work. I think it was pulled together from various notes and needed to be published due to a contractual obligation or something. There really is not much of a story here. Like I said, it is really no more than running notes that allow you to have some closure for the earlier stories. Good review.

    1. Thanks. I guess that makes a lot of sense if it’s just his notes compiled into an attempt at a novel. I’ve heard from others that the quality of his writing in general goes downhill for all his books the older he got.

      1. It’s true. The ideas are there but as his got on in years the quality of the writing declined. Then when it became the norm for him to team with folks like Gentry Lee the work was nearly unbearable with only a few exceptions. Lee, in my opinion, really contributed the most to hurting the legacy of Clarke as a writer. Perhaps Clarke’s best work can be found in a monster of an anthology of collected short stories he wrote. His story “Loophole” is outstanding but my favorite in that collection escapes my mind right now…it has to do with humanity losing a war because they continued to advance and advance which allowed lower tech to win simply by outnumbering us. Very much a story of the East/west Cold War military philosophies.

          1. Rendezvous with Rama, Rama II, and The Garden of Rama are excellent. I think Gentry Lee got more heavily involved as the series went on. There is a related 4th book called Messengers I think. It is best to be avoided. Books 1-3 (especially 1 and 2) are very good and harken to the good old Clarke days.

  2. I loved “Rendezvous with Rama” when it first appeared and have been considering re-reading it. After reading it I picked up a paperback copy of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and it has been in my TBR stack for more years than I care to think about. I had heard that the quality of the series went downhill after the first book and your review verifies it. I hope to finally get around to reading “2001” this year. Thank you for a good review.

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