Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

2010: Odyssey Two (1982)

Author: Arthur C. Clarke | Page Count: 297

Moods and emotions were leaking into his own consciousness, though he could not identify any specific concepts or ideas.  It was as if he were listening, outside a closed door, to a debate in progress, and in a language he could not understand.”

2010: Odyssey Two is a direct sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) but it’s not that simple.  Stanley Kubrick’s filmed version of 2001 had some minor but significant differences from the novel.  The second book mostly follows on from the film, not the novel, so we’re returning to Jupiter and Io, not to Saturn and Iapetus.  If you bypass the film and come direct from the first book you’ll be confused and perhaps angry at the discrepancies and apparent lack of continuity.

Dr. Heywood Floyd, a scientist mentioned previously in 2001, is determined to understand the fate of the Spaceship Discovery and its crew, so a second mission is launched in order to intercept the Discovery, which has remained dead in Jupiter's orbit for the past nine years.  Along for the ride is Dr. Chandra, the creator of the H.A.L 9000 computer.  In Kubrick’s film he was called Mr. Langley.

Clarke isn't very good at characterisation.  When he breaks from hard sci-fi in an attempt to offer some insight into the crew it feels forced, and there’s a lot more crew aboard this time.  They offer ample opportunity for tension and drama but he never fully avails of it.  Most of the time he uses an expositive cold narrative in place of proper dialogue that keeps the characters two dimensional.  Some of the lesser characters have no function other than to fill a necessary scientific role so that Clarke can extrapolate about scientific principles that may or may not be wholly relevant to the plot.  In retrospect, the absence of dialogue is what helped make the first half of the 2001 novel so successful.

While critical of his ability to develop characters, I can’t fault his passion for detailing new worlds and forms of life.  His brain seemed more attuned to receiving creative input from a scientific perspective than from a dramatic one.  If you accept that and embrace the science-head aspect of it, at the expense of a satisfactory human element, you can get sucked into Clarke's vision more easily.

Personally, I didn't want to know what became of Dave, I liked the uncertainty, but I was eager for more of H.A.L.

3 problematic epilogues out of 5

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