This book is about earthquakes, but not in the way you think. It’s more about one man, Lewis Crane, and his obsession. This obsession will cost him everything. On the way, we see fascinating glimpses of an evolving society and, oh yes, some earthquakes. Very good stuff.
Along with 2001, Rendezvous with Rama is the defining work of Arthur C. Clarke. The book is full of his trademark sense of wonder, and Clarke manages to convey awe at alien things like few others can. The first book is a solo effort. Clarke then teamed up with Gentry Lee to write a sequel trilogy. The whole series consists of:
- Rendezvous with Rama
- Rama II
- The Garden of Rama
- Rama Revealed
The follow-up trilogy explores and expands on the Rama concept, and puts forward some very interesting ideas on life in the universe, and how ready we as humans really are to inherit the stars (or Eden). It is an epic tale of destiny, focused around the character of Nicole, a hero if there ever was one. Not an action hero, however. Simply an inspiring figure around which the story swirls and flows. Wonderful stuff, and quite awe-inspiring.
As usual, Clarke has an interesting premise. Faced with the Sun going nova in the year 3600, humanity launches seed ships with the necessities for creating earth life, including humans. Some of these colonies succeed, including one on the island paradise of Thalassa. After seven hundred years, a manned colony ship with a million frozen humans appears in orbit. The (not frozen) crew of the ship needs water ice in order to rebuild the ablation shield on the ship and continue their journey. The novel describes how the very different groups of crew and inhabitants of Thalassa meet and interact over the course of the colony ship’s stay.
I found the whole thing naive in it’s view of humanity (everybody is unnaturaly wise and kind) and more than a bit a bit dull. While Clarke has many interesting ideas, and I certainly had no problem finishing the book, I found that there was a peculiar lack of tension. Clarke compensates with his mastery of the “sense of wonder” style, but this still isn’t enough to elevate this novel even close to the level of his masterpieces, like the Rama Series or The Fountains of Paradise.
As an interesting footnote, Mike Oldfield recorded an eponymous concept album based on themes from the book. It is one of my all-time favorites.
A classic from one of the great masters. The book tells the story of the construction of a space elevator on an island closely based on Sri Lanka. The author also took a bit of license and moved it to the equator in order to make things actually work.
While one might think that the story is only about the technical aspects, it delves much deeper into the spiritual past and future of bridge building. For what is a space elevator if not a bridge to the stars? Clarke skillfully blends the past and the future into a marvelous tale. His famous skill sense of wonder is shown off to great effect, and the book leaves you feeling in awe with humanity and the universe.
This series started as a one-off book released in conjunction with the Stanley Kubrick movie of the same name. The series consists of:
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- 2010: Odyssey Two. (Also made into a film)
- 2061 Odyssey Three
- 3001: The Final Odyssey
The first and second books are enthralling. 2061 is more of the same, and thus decent but somewhat pointless as part of the arc. 3001 is an attempt at closing up all the loose threads, and does so in a satisfying way.
For a long time, these books frustrated me because I just didn’t get them. On the surface, they are hard SciFi, but there is quite a bit of existential pondering about the nature of life. When I finally just relaxed and accepted the fact that there are mystical things going on, I realized that this is the whole point. The reader is supposed to be in awe, and there are some things that mankind is not meant to know (yet). Just remember to accept the mystery and embrace the sense of wonder.
One of the great classics of science fiction, this novel is set in a city that holds the last remnant of humanity. The inhabitants of the city while away the millennia in eternal bliss. But there is trouble in paradise (of course). A young boy finds that he wants more out of existence than merely existing. I found this a bit slow paced, but it is an interesting investigation of utopia and eternity.