Friday, 25 February 2011

2010 Odyssey Two - Arthur C. Clarke

When writing a science-fiction novel of the calibre of Arthur Clarke's Space Odyssey it is totally understandable, if not absolutely expectable, that the sequel would not follow exactly the events that preceded it. As the author himself points out, the four parts of Space Odyssey MUST be regarded as separate pieces of literature. They indeed feature common characters, but not necessarily in the same universe. How great a statement and how perfectly it fits into the whole grand concept of Clarke's masterpiece.

2010 Odyssey Two obviously takes place 9 years after the tragic destiny of Discovery, the space ship sent to examine Saturn, which found the same strange monolith structure, as the one on the Moon. In this novel, however, the monolith is now floating around Jupiter. Between the publishing of the two novels, technology increased at amazing rates. Observations and conclusions from viewing space objects, and especially Jupiter, added more to the human understanding about the universe. Thus, Clarke chose to focus on Jupiter, instead of Saturn, as in the first part. There are also other minor difference but contrary to expectations they do not disappoint the reader. In fact, the change of scenery contributes to the immerse power of the tetralogy. In every part Clarke takes us to different parts of the galaxy, still not deviating from his main theme of the great, yet dangerous consequences of the increasing human presence outside the Earth.

The joined US-Soviet space ship Alexei Leonov (named after the great Russian astronaut) travels to the orbits of Jupiter not only to investigate the strange monolith, but also to bring back Discovery and to find out what has happened to David Bowman. On board is again doctor Heywood Floyd, the scientist who assisted in the observations of the first strange monolith discovered on the Moon. Unfortunately for the US-Soviet crew, a Chinese ship, Tsien, also aimed at Jupiter, manages to arrive there quicker. Upon trying to land on one of its moons, Europa, the spaceship is destroyed by a strange creature and all of the crew is killed. Meanwhile, the reborn Star Child David Bowman returns in the form of spirit (or power, or...whatever your imagination tells you) to visit some of his most beloved people. Moreover, through the computer Hal, it warns the Leonov crew that they are to leave immediately the orbits of Jupiter or else be subject to an unknown danger. Finally, at the end of the novel a New Sun is born through the explosion of what used to be the biggest planet in the Solar system. Discovery is destroyed and Leonov is saved only thanks to the weird message from the Star Child. And the humans receive a message that won't be soon forgotten: "ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE". The terrestrial life has admitted its existence, acknowledged the presence of the humans, and warned them to stay away. However, as we know, the boundaries of human curiosity are endless. Will the people honor this warning or would they soon return to examine Europa and the life that openly has declared war to humanity? And what about the strange black monoliths that seem to have a strong connection to the other civilizations. Every time they appear, humanity is faced with a deadly situation. What will the monolith do next? Arthur Clarke will give answers in 2061 Odyssey 3

Contrary to many examples in world literature, the first part of Space Odyssey doesn't in anyway surpass in excellency the second. In fact, the genius of Clarke is yet to show its great potential. The author once again proves he has a vast imagination and an ability to accurately predict the paths technology is going to take in the years to come. Keeping in mind Clarke was 65 years old when he wrote his second part, the reader feels admiration and respect to his forward vision. After all, this is the guy who predicted the invention and use of satellites long before they were actually implemented to study the Universe. This fact speaks for itself for the talent of Mr. Clarke.

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