Reading Binge, Part II: Rendezvous with Rama
Thu May 1st 2003, 8:56pm
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.

Visitor comments
On Fri May 2nd 2003, 8:12am, will posted:
Rama II was by far my favorite of the Rama books that I did read. It still had a lot of the discovery and exploration feel to it that the first book had, but it also had a lot more action and high adventure. Its been probably about 10 years since I've read any of those books, but I still remember them fondly. I need to go out and get them and reread them because it has been long enough. Anyway, the Rama series is all quite good, but I haven't read the last book yet.

On Fri May 2nd 2003, 8:24am, will posted:
I must add that after looking at the list of the top 50 SF of all time, I have a LOT of reading to do. 34 books to be exact. There are some books not on there that I believe should be on there. They may not have the popularity, but they definitely have the quality. I would recommend that everyone who likes fantasy novles read the novels in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords. I don't thik that there is a better fantasy series out there, and each book has been even better than the one before it. Quite amazing.
As for other Sci-Fi books, I will always recommend Startide Rising, and the other associated uplift books. They are all quite good, with startide rising being the best of them.
Well, thats all for now, happy reading everyone.

On Sat May 3rd 2003, 5:38pm, Steve Kehlet posted:
I'm with you Will, I see about 35 books on there I haven't read. To continue your commentary on that list, I'm a bit surprised to see that Terry Brooks' Sword of Shannara is on there (granted, it's number 48), because it's always been the most brutally targeted victim of my anti-Tolkien-rip-offs crusade. Now, I liked several of Brooks' later books, the Druid/Scions/Talismans/Whatever ..., but Sword was such an obvious plagiarizing of so many of Tolkien's characters and settings from Middle Earth that it's truly sad. It's only value is as background for his later books which were decent, if somewhat formulaic reads.
I'm not sure if I would recommend any of my favorites that aren't on there, though David Edding's Belgariad will always hold something special for me, even though it was the only (partially) original work he ever wrote, and simply re-told a zillion times after that. Partially original because the Orb was simply a Silmaril, and the gods were the Valar, UL was Iluvatar, and Torak was Melkor... somebody stop me, please... Also, I liked Asimov's sequel Robots of Dawn better than Caves of Steel (the original in the Elijah Bailey series, listed).
I'll have to get copies of your suggestions, thanks for posting them. I'm ready for another good fantasy book and have The Tombs of Atuan, the sequel to Wizard ... in front of me.