Sunday, March 17, 2013

Book review: 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clark

Today I read a book called 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clark. I decided to take a short time out from my regular list of reviews on the to-do list and read something just for me. I've been wanting to read this book for years, honestly. While I was attending my monthly author's group at the library last week, I passed it on an end cap display and decided it was time.

Here's the synopsis from the back of the book: You are invited aboard the spacecraft Discovery on a voyage to the outer edge of the solar system. A crystal monolith left on the moon by an alien intelligence is the only clue to guide this probe of an ultimate mystery of the universe. Outside the craft is the black abyss of the unknown. Within are two increasingly frightened navigators, three frozen hibernauts, and a talkative computer named Hal, whose conversation and behavior becomes increasingly bizarre. There is no predicting what awaits you. And there is no turning back as you move toward a climax as startling as reality and as real as tomorrow.

I freakin' LOVE science-fiction. There's no doubt about that. I had heard so much hype about this book being the greatest sci-fi story of all time, and I know it was made into a movie. Once I borrowed it from the library, I couldn't wait to tear into it! I didn't get to until the past two days, but patience is a virtue, right?

I enjoyed it ... BUT ...

It's one of those stories that keeps you going and going and going with very intriguing implications where you are reading full speed ahead waiting for that major thing you're expecting ... and then, not enough to quench the thirst. It started off in time of the ape-men, before language and the slightest hint of technology. A monolith (big slab of unidentified rock in a perfect rectangular formation) just appears near their cave. They howl at it, dance around it, try to eat it, and then realize it's nothing of worth to them. They're not even intelligent enough to question what it's doing there. It gives off some kind of vibes that possess them into doing weird things that they normally wouldn't do. After that, they aren't the same and actually use what was now in their mind to make tools and weaponry, as if the alien rock helped them in a sense.

Then it goes to another era where people are working and living on the moon. A scientist, Dr. Floydd is summoned to the site where a crew found a similar monolith buried deep under the moon's surface, which freaks everyone out because it's the first ever evidence of alien intelligence. It was dated to be 3 million years old. Soon after they dug it up, it gave off a strong signal that radiated all the way to Saturn. Basically, this part of the book ended, and next thing I know, I'm with another crew that's headed to Jupiter and Saturn!

I was starting to like Dr. Floydd, but that was his only part (aside from a brief dialogue toward the end of the book). Then a crew it headed to Jupiter, then to Saturn to check out the track of this alien signal, but no one told them it was a one-way trip. The computer named Hal who is the operator of the ship (kind of like the car in Night Rider), but it develops deviance and ends up causing the death of one of the two main crewmen. Three others are in a state of frozen hibernation.

*Spoiler Alert*

This is one spot where I was disappointed. The book make a big deal about these three hibernauts, and I was so excited to get to the part where they'd wake up  years later to fulfill their part in the mission. But guess what, Hal causes them to die with his tomfoolery too! Ugh. The only one left alive is Dave Bowman. He overtakes Hal, finds out he's actually on a suicide mission, but plays it out gallantly and gets to his destination on Saturn.

When he gets there, he sees another monolith, and as he's reporting this back to Earth while detached from the ship in a pod (trying to get a closer look), he gets sucked into it and whirled through a maze of time and space and lots of cool graphic descriptions of nebulae, suns and lights. This is where I was kind of thinking "huh?" He ends up landing safely in place resembling an apartment on Earth, yet he was light years away from the Milky Way galaxy. All the fiery chaos and intergalactic violence didn't even touch him as he floating through in his pod. He walks around apartment, finds food and clothes, even TV, then takes a nap. After this he becomes a newborn, rises up somewhere, looks at Earth and is a "Star Child" seemingly reborn as a superior being. The end.

OK. I'm sorry but as much as I love sci-fi, I just couldn't get super excited about this book. It had amazing potential to be thrilling, but it was so s-l-o-w moving. The end was one of those mind-benders that left you with your mouth open in utter confusion. I hate those kinds of endings! JUST TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED! And you never learn who or what created that Earth-like dwelling for him, or what the hell this monolith thing was or who exactly made it. There was no alien contact, just constant crashing of high hopes.

What I did enjoy about this book was that it was written by someone who knew his stuff! His intelligence came through full scale in his writing. He was very descriptive of the technical details, but it was very lacking, to me, in the human side of things. I didn't notice much character development or dialogue. The evil computer Hal had the best dialogue in the book! I didn't enjoy the book, but it frustrated me too many times. And I found myself having to go back and reread whole sections just to grasp enough understanding to move forward. Never a good sign to me. Oh, and I found the movie online and attempted to watch it. It literally made me sleep. It was super slow, more so than the book, and half the movie was just graphics and noises. The ending of the movie was worse than the book.

I probably will read the other of the Odyssey books but not in a hurry. I gave it 3 stars.

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