Tag Archives: Arthur C. Clarke

2001: A Video Review

It’s interesting doing these retro book reviews. It’s been more than four years since I’ve read the book, but the feeling sticks with me. I may not remember all the details, but I can remember pretty well my impression of the book.

This one left a very positive memory for me. I enjoyed it very much, and it was my first five star review. So, I did a video review of it! Enjoy!

The original review is here, if you’d like to read it.

Let me know what you thought of the book in the comments below or on the original review post!

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.

Book Review – 2061: Odyssey Three

20612061: Odyssey Three

Author: Arthur C. Clarke

Series: Space Odyssey #3

Genre: Science Fiction

Published 1987

Review Copy: Paperback bought new

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Goodreads Description

Arthur C. Clarke revisits the most famous future ever imagined, as two expeditions into space are inextricably tangled by human necessity and the immutable laws of physics. And Heywood Floyd. survivor of two previous encounters with the mysterious monoliths, must once again confront Dave Bowman—or whatever Bowman has become—a newly independent HAL, and the power of an alien race that has decided Humanity is to play a part in the evolution of the galaxy whether it wishes to or not.

Review

2061: Odyssey Three is the third book in the Space Odyssey series by Arthur C. Clarke.  Obviously, this takes place 51 years after the events in 2010: Odyssey Two.

Returning as an elderly man who is unable to walk on Earth due to being in space too long, Dr. Heywood Floyd takes a final journey to see Halley’s Comet, but he’s in for a bigger adventure than he bargained for.  Inevitably, the story goes to the Jupiter system to find out what’s going on there.  I won’t spoil it for you, but it will definitely involve a monolith.

Heading the cast of characters is Dr. Heywood Floyd, the only person from the Leonov expedition to be present in this book.  He’s now quite old and seems quite ready for an adventure.  Unfortunately, I found him to ramble on a lot in his thoughts.  Rolf van der Berg is a scientist on Ganymede, and he seems like a pretty selfish scientist who doesn’t like to heed warnings.  I never really liked him.  Floyd’s grandson Chris is also a major character, and he seems to be fairly level-headed and a likeable character.  We also have a collection of other characters, such as the celebrities that accompany Dr. Floyd.  They are a bit odd, but they are all quite one dimensional.  They aren’t very memorable and have little to do with that actual story.  The rest of the crew of the Universe isn’t very interesting.  The crew of the Galaxy has a more interesting crew, though with the sheer number of characters and little time exposed to each of them, they are also easy to forget.  I found that the character development was extremely lacking and most were very one dimensional.

The story was not so predictable, but I found a lack of suspense.  I wanted to know what would happen next, but I wasn’t on the edge of my seat.  It wasn’t as dramatic as I’d hoped.  It lacks the dramatic flair that the first book and, to a lesser extent, the second book had.  Some chapters were rather dull and did nothing to progress the story.  In those chapters, we had a lot of rambling in the narrative about something that was only vaguely related to what was going on.  It was like an old man who is talking about one thing, then goes off on a tangent about something else entirely.

One thing that impressed me is Clarke’s detail concerning the planets and moons, as well as space travel itself.  It makes me feel like I’m there, although surrounded by uninteresting people I don’t care for.

I may sound a bit harsh, but I was disappointed in the character development and some of the writing.  It is an interesting story, though.

Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.  It’s not great, it’s not bad, but it’s reasonably interesting.

Book Review – 2010: Odyssey Two

20102010: Odyssey Two

Author: Arthur C. Clarke

Series: Space Odyssey #2

Genre: Science Fiction

Published 1982

Review Copy: Paperback bought new

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Goodreads Description

Nine years after the disastrous Discovery mission to Jupiter in 2001, a joint U.S.-Soviet expedition sets out to rendezvous with the derelict spacecraft–to search the memory banks of the mutinous computer HAL 9000 for clues to what went wrong…and what became of Commander Dave Bowman.

Without warning, a Chinese expedition targets the same objective, turning the recovery mission into a frenzied race for the precious information Discovery may hold about the enigmatic monolith that orbits Jupiter.

Meanwhile, the being that was once Dave Bowman–the only human to unlock the mystery of the monolith–streaks toward Earth on a vital mission of its own…

Review

2010: Odyssey Two is the second book of the Space Odyssey series by Arthur C. Clarke.  This science fiction novel is a sequel to the highly successful 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I should make one note about this book.  It’s not actually a direct sequel of the 2001 novel, as that involved Saturn.  However, it’s a sequel of the movie, which went to Jupiter.  This book involves Jupiter. This actually makes a lot of sense, because of the discoveries by the Voyager spacecraft at Jupiter.  It’s a much better fit for what happens in this book.

The cast of characters is quite different this time.  Although it does go in search of HAL and what happened to Dave Bowman, they’re now on a Russian ship with most of the characters being Russian.  The main character is Heywood Floyd, who is from the first book.  He goes on the mission along with HAL’s creator Dr. Chandra and Walter Curnow.  The Russians are dominated by the captain Tanya Orlova, assistant engineer Maxim Brailovsky, Vasili Orlov, and the doctor Katerina Rudenko.  There are a fair number of characters other than them, but these stand out to me.  I quite like Maxim and Walter’s interactions, giving it a bit of a light mood.  Tanya is a strong character, but very likable.  Dr. Chandra is a stereotypical unemotional, withdrawn computer genius who I just can’t connect with.  Dr. Rudenko is a great character, and very likable.  The main character, Dr. Floyd, is a very human character, though I wouldn’t have made the same choice as him to leave his family for this mission.  Overall, the characters are nice, friendly people, but they’re not very deep.  That’s one of my gripes about this book.  I just couldn’t connect with anyone.

The story is pretty straightforward, find Discovery and recover its data.  What they find, though, is a mystery.  And this mystery unfolds as the members of the Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov watch what happens, something I won’t spoil for anyone.  But it’s a big change, that’s for sure.  I found the story fairly understandable and easy to read.  There are a lot of technical terms, but not too difficult for the average reader.  It’s pretty scientifically accurate with the knowledge of the time.  The only problem is that I felt distant, like I was watching it all from afar.  I didn’t feel like I was part of the action.  The story was interesting, but not engrossing.

This book suffers from not living up to its predecessor.  It was enjoyable and a quick read, but I felt a bit unsatisfied at the end.  I am curious about what’s going to happen with Europa, although that is hinted at the end of the book.

Would I recommend it?  Mildly, yes.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.  It’s readable, enjoyable, but not very engaging.

Book Review – 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey2001: A Space Odyssey

Author: Arthur C. Clarke

Series: Space Odyssey #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Published 1968

Review Copy: Paperback bought new

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Goodreads Description

The year is 2001, and cosmonauts uncover a mysterious monolith that has been buried on the Moon for at least three million years. To their astonishment, the monolith releases an equally mysterious pulse—a kind of signal—in the direction of Saturn after it is unearthed. Whether alarm or communication, the human race must know what the signal is—and who it was intended for.

The Discovery and its crew, assisted by the highly advanced HAL 9000 computer system, sets out to investigate. But as the crew draws closer to their rendezvous with a mysterious and ancient alien civilization, they realize that the greatest dangers they face come from within the spacecraft itself. HAL proves a dangerous traveling companion, and the crew must outwit him to survive.

This novel version of the famous Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey was written by Clarke in conjunction with the movie’s production. It is meant to stand as a companion piece, and it offers a complementary narrative that’s loaded with compelling science fiction ideas.

Review

I’ve seen the movie, and now I’ve finally read the book.  It’s been years since I’ve seen the movie, but 2001: A Space Odyssey brought back a lot of memories.  2001 was published in 1968, but a lot of the science is spot on.  Of course, there were gaps of knowledge in 1968 about Jupiter and Saturn, but Arthur C. Clarke’s depiction of Europa and the rings of Saturn were surprisingly good.  Clarke understood the science of space and the difficulties involved with space travel, so this book was highly realistic.

The story is a classic.  It’s about man’s ultimate discovery and the journey to find out what life means.  This book was written in very short chapters, which made it very easy to read in short bursts.  While Clarke was very descriptive about scientific and technical terms, it didn’t make it more difficult to read.  In fact, he seemed to be able to describe these things in terms which the average person could understand.  I found this book delightfully easy to read.

The characters were very believable.  They were realistic people who behaved just like any real person would.  They were quite engaging, especially the non-human character, HAL 9000, which was Discovery’s computer.  Hal was the book’s antagonist, and is probably the most memorable computer in literature or film.

The quick pace and short length of this book left little room for slow periods.  It was constantly engaging, and I kept wanting to read.  I knew the movie was good, but I was very happy to discover how good the book is.  I highly recommend 2001: A Space Odyssey to anyone with any interest in space or science fiction.  Don’t let its age fool you.  The science is quite good for most of the movie.  One of the best books I’ve read in a while.

I rate it 5 out of 5.