Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rama II

Arthur C. Clarke, Gentry Lee
Bantam Spectra, 1989 (my copy is from 1990)
Size: Average (my copy has 466 pages)
Theme: Interaction with alien civilizations
Narrative: Third-person
Main character: Several (Nicole, Michael, and Richard)
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

“Rama II” is the sequel of “Rendezvous with Rama”, and continues the story about alien spaceships travelling the universe. In this second book of the series, another Rama spaceship has been discovered entering our solar system and, again, plans are put in motion in order to intercept and study it as it passes near our planet. Written many years after the first book, and with the plot taking place also almost a century after the first book, the Human society on Earth has changed considerably, and the motivations for exploring Rama as well as the difficulties of setting up a successful mission are very different.
We follow the crew of 12 astronauts that are selected to explore Rama, and who are supposedly better prepared than those in the original book. However, the meet new challenges and find that Rama is much more that meets the eye.

This book answers some of the mysteries of the previous one, but raises new ones about the alien society and its culture. However, the reader can be secure in the knowledge that (almost) all the questions raised will be answered in the later 2 books. There is considerable action going on in this story, and adrenaline-paced moments. Most of the story revolves around the exploration of the Rama spacecraft. The book ends with an unexpected twist that makes you immediately want to jump to the next book in the series.

Unlike the first book, which I found to lack depth or to challenge beliefs and moral attitudes, this book tackles sensitive aspects about contemporary society and some of its challenges. It is definitely a very good sequel, in my opinion exceeding the first book in several aspects.

Spoilers (warning: the following text contains information that may hamper/ruin how much you enjoy the book):
The crew discovers several different life forms aboard Rama, and interacts with them (not always in what would be called a successful way). They even discover how to use some of the Raman technology (namely machines that can manufacture whatever is requested). The book ends with 3 of the 12 initial astronauts, Nicole, Michael, and Richard, remaining inside Rama as it prepares to jump outside our solar system. These 3 astronauts will continue to share their lives together in the third book.

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