Monday, January 3, 2011

2061: Odyssey Three

Arthur C. Clarke
Del Rey, 1987 (my copy is from 1997)
Size: Average (my copy has 276 pages)
Theme: Space exploration
Narrative: Third-person
Main character: Heywood Floyd
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

This is the third installment of the “2001” saga. In this book, Heywood Floyd, now 103 years old (or 65, depending on either of two interpretations offered in the story), will embark on the spaceship Universe to meet comet Halley in its passage through our solar system. Simultaneously, the spaceship Galaxy (which includes Chris Floyd in its crew) will attempt to explore the former moon Europa (which we have witnessed in the second book having intelligent life). However, complications arise and as the Galaxy crew becomes stranded in Europa, the spaceship Universe will have to attempt to rescue them.

In this book further information is unveiled about the purpose of the monoliths, what exactly is taking place in Europa, and how all the events taking place might shape and affect the future of humanity. As in the two previous books, there is rich technical detail in the narrative, an accurate description of celestial events, and several adrenaline-filled moments. In comparison to previous books, this one is the first that ends with a clear “to be continued”, as it opens up room for a sequel (promised by Clarke to be the last of the series). There are also some interesting theories presented about what the conditions in Jupiter’s core might have produced.

This is a worthwhile sequel to “2011”, and continues to explore the interesting characters of Dave Bowman, the prototype astronaut, and Heywood Floyd, the emblematic scientist. But now the description of these characters become even deeper: Floyd’s attempt to maintain some of his family ties, even when temporally displaced, and Bowman’s attempt to keep his human emotion and perspective on things.

Spoilers (warning: the following text contains information that may hamper/ruin how much you enjoy the book):
The book ends with the alien avatar now comprised of Bowman, HAL, and Floyd (his persona was copied to a new template, even though the original Heywood Floyd is still alive travelling back to Earth) analyzing the current situation and setting themselves to try to help the 3 species in Europa to reach their potential. And for that task they estimate having barely a millennium.

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