Monday, 28 February 2011
3001 The Final Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke
As a closure the final part of Clarke's tetralogy is a mixture of everything - there is love, renewed friendship after almost 1,000 years, unbelievable jump of the technology, computerized brains, dinosaurs-servants, a star city, spanning in the geostationary orbit of the Earth, and colonization of some of the moons. 3001 The Final Odyssey is still disconnected from the past three parts but Clark sticks to his main point and elaborates on it further.
Technology has reached such levels that communication, studying, politics, and economics have become almost obsolete. Humanity has invented the brain cap - a computerized tool that connects to the human brain, able to transfer knowledge, to induce positive feelings, to cure insomnia and depression, and to be used to communicate with others. Privacy is no longer a luxury - the brain cap is able to read a person's mind and to store it on a little flash disk. All you have ever been, felt, experienced, loathed, or loved is simply turned into a computer chip.
Moreover, space travel is now not limited to the chosen few astronauts. People have colonized some of the moons of Jupiter and have established their little towns there. Four gigantic space elevators are build in strategic places on the equator. They are connected to create the Star City - a space replication of the Earth, where people live an almost earthly life. Flying, dinosaurs, computerized images of everything you might wish, swimming pools, etc are among the few features of this Space City. People act more like machines than like flesh-and-blood species. In this part of the novel I was reminded of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. In the latter, the author explores a utopian world, where people are conditioned from their birth to certain feelings and expressions. Love and affection are obsolete and sex and drugs are used as recreational activity. This is a rather extreme view, but the similarities with Clark's world in 3001 are obvious. The brain cap is a form of computerized control over the human mind and soul, and the computerized images generated to induce positive feelings can be related to the happiness drug in Huxley's world. In addition, criminals in Clarke's world are no longer put in jails. Instead, they are conditioned to be servants until their punishment expires. At the end, they return to the normal world without any memory of what has happened. Again this form of positive conditioning reminds of extreme forms of human control, one of which can be seen in Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange. As much as a supporter of the advancements of technology Arthur Clarke is, the author insightfully points out that the short-comings of this technological jump in most times outrun the human intentions and imagination.
In this world an old friend from 2001 A Space Odyssey returns. Frank Poole, the tragically killed astronaut by the computer Hal is discovered in the orbit of Neptune. He managed to survive for nearly 1,000 thanks to being frozen to almost zero. Now Poole wakes up a stranger in a strange world. He is regarded as a museum exhibit; even the language he speaks has become ancient. Having spent 1,000 in gravitation levels less than the Earths, Poole cannot return anymore to his home planet. He is living in the Star City trying to comprehend and to get used to the new technologies. Doomed to failure, Frank realizes the only place he feels as home is the space. The astronaut joins a space expedition to the forbidden moon of Europa. People believe that as the friend of Dave Bowman, he is the only that will be allowed to land there. Meanwhile, the Europeans have evolved thanks to the newly formed sun Lucifer. They are though still primitive species and lack any intellect.
After almost 1,000 years a friendship is renewed - Frank Poole and the star child Dave Bowman meet again. A millenium hasn't change much. The monoliths are still in the universe, controlled by unknown superintelligent extra-terrestrial life, looking for species with potential to develop a civilization. After humanity, Europeans are their next experiment, hence the burning of Jupiter into Lucifer to provide their planet with sun. However, the evolutionary push these geniuses have given humans result in a civilization that has reached unbelievable heights. Europeans, on the other hand, remain at their primitive level with no signs of development.
As I mentioned in my previous post, humanity is a feeling highly persistent, even if one spends 1,000 years in space as a form of ultra-intelligent energy. Bowman still feels connected to his previous life and body; he cautions Poole that the Earth is to be destroyed by the same intelligence that has created it. Now humanity has to gather all those biochemical, computer, and bacterial viruses to destroy someone they haven't seen and they don't understand. Ironically, the weapons people created for self-destruction and which have been carefully hidden for the past thousands of years, will be now used for their rescue.
In his tetralogy about space travel Arthur Clarke aided in the understanding of the human universe, prompted some experiments yet to be implemented, and forecasted discoveries not yet made. His imagination is vivid, his knowledge about the effect of technology on humanity is insightful, and his talent is extraordinary. Deservingly named one of the Big Three of science-fiction. His novels are sometimes purely science, sometimes fiction, but overall they are novels that bring this course of literature to unmatched heights. Arthur Clarke's genius helped me realize I judged science-fiction far too quickly and far too severely. It is not merely a fantastical world - all of the author's suggestions and descriptions are backed up by technology so far. They are just visionary thoughts and expectations to where humanity might reach to if progress continuous at such a rapid pace. I loved Arthur Clarke, I loved Space Odyssey and I am sad that the space century of the world seems rather over, or at least stuck in one place.