Author: Arthur C. Clarke | Page Count: 256
'He found it both sad and fascinating that only through an artificial universe of video images could she establish contact with the real world.'
The third instalment in Clarke's Space Odyssey series isn't a direct sequel to either the previous novel or the film and should instead be considered a ‘variation on a theme’ so that he can incorporate actual scientific discoveries into the work without compromising any kind of set-in-stone history.
The first third of the book follows Heywood Floyd, now aged 103, as he returns to space after an extended stay of recovery in hospital. When put into context, neither the journey nor the destination has anything to do with the remainder of the novel. It exists solely for Clarke to speculate and postulate about the aforementioned scientific discoveries made by NASA prior to writing.
Once he’s finished that (about 100 pages in) he gets back to the story he should’ve written from the onset, but even then the writing is as cold and empty as the space he sets out to document. Ironically, his enthusiasm for doing just that, for describing space and celestial bodies, is much better realised than his characters.
It’s only in the last 50+ pages of the book that I felt like I’d set aside the science journal and was now reading science fiction, but it's all too brief.
There's almost no advancement of the Monolith story; it even manages to make a mockery of what came before. There's an infuriating conspiracy that goes nowhere and is never fully exposed. There's no sense of danger. There's no heart. The boredom that the crew feel was similarly felt by me.
The final chapter, all one page of it, sets up events for the next book in the series and was the only part of the novel that felt like it deserved to be there.
1½ rotten eggs out of 5