So, inspired by my prior positive experience reading off the Science Fiction Book Club's Top 50 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books listing, I thought I'd give another book off it a try. This time I chose Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clark (yes, the same guy that wrote 2001 and 2010). I thought I'd go for sci/fi this time.
It was good, possibly even really good (I'm still a bit undecided), definitely
well-written, and most notably, very suspenseful, enough to keep me from wanting to put it
down despite the fading daylight and the nagging from my tearing eyes. The characters
were interesting, I especially liked the arrogant group of scientists in the "think tank"
back home who kept arguing about what Rama was and what to do with it. The cylinder shown
on the cover is not a monolith, though you can already see the author's penchant for
large, black objects flying through space. The cylinder is actually hollow, and what's
inside is an enormous self-contained world, sort of in the vein of Ringworld (Niven was
first from what I can tell, 1970 vs. 1973), spinning to create artificial gravity. The
humans bumble through the place, exploring, trying to make sense of it all, what Rama
is--is it a tomb, full of dead aliens who tried to flee their home in vain? a bomb,
destined to destroy us all? an arc, come from God for the Second Judgment to save only
those worthy from some impending cataclysmic event? Unfortunately, all these theories as
they unfold throughout the story are far more fascinating than the actual outcome,
(spoilers ahead) which is that Rama is just using our sun to slingshot somewhere far, far
away. In fact the very anti-climatic ending is deliberate I believe, and serves Clarke's
purpose, that is to make a statement on mankind's (and perhaps even the reader's)
arrogance and self-centeredness for us to even have assumed that Rama wanted anything to
do with us at all. As Clarke describes, worse even than a nasty insult is absolute
disinterest, which is all Rama shows towards Man.
Wow!!?! Check this out, someone's making
a movie of it, releasing in 2004. Staring Morgan Freeman, as Captain Norton (!). "A
daring exploration of an alien spacecraft hurtling towards our sun. An epic journey into
a world never before imagined. An astounding revelation about humanity and the nature of
life." Not quite what I would have said about the book in 3 sentences, but hey (I might
have said more a "humorous" or "humbling" realization about mankind). Looks like the
special effects will be amazing though.
Damn!! It's a cheesy looking video game from
1984, too! (Those graphics are fabulous). Amazing what Google can find.
If you liked 2001 and 2010, it's a good read. I might even read the sequels some day,
also award winners.