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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

3001: The Final Odyssey (1997)

Author: Arthur C. Clarke | Page Count: 272

'Finding TMA ONE on the Moon was a big enough shock, but five hundred years later there was a worse one. And it was much nearer home…'

3001 is the fourth and, like it says in the title, final entry in the Space Odyssey series. It's a kind of semi-return to form after the abominable 2061 (1987).

Clarke seems to have enjoyed speculating about future technology and society almost as much as he enjoyed detailing the minutia of space dust and comet trajectories in previous books. His enthusiasm translates into reader interest. We came for science fiction and we got it. It does eventually give way to droll lecturing, but it's broken up by some interesting letters to home that comment on developments and give an insight into people's thoughts.

The main protagonist is someone we've encountered before, but I'm not gong to reveal who it is even though the blurb on the back does.

There's a secondary character introduced about halfway through that I suspect functions as the voice of the author undiluted. He comes into the story, says some poignant things and then gets shuffled aside like the others.

That's illustrative of the main problem with the book. The characters are interesting but mostly they feel like nothing more than conduits to enable events to move from point A to point B. It's point B that we all want to know about, so it's some consolation that when we do get there it references the previous adventures and uses our feelings of what transpired to enhance it.

Once again, there's some acknowledged minor inconsistencies in continuity due to real life science and space exploration catching up with or shedding new light on Clarke's educated guesses. In that respect, the entire series can be viewed as both a product of its time and a fixed record of how real science influenced the fiction writer. It does that more successfully than it does most everything else.

2½ long-distance deliveries out of 5

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