Title: 2010: Odyssey Two

Author: Arthur C. Clarke

Hardback: 291 pages

Publisher: Ballantine Books (1982)

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Appraising Eyeballs:



About the Book:

Nine years after the disastrous Discovery mission to Jupiter in 2001, a joint U.S.-Soviet expedition sets out to rendezvous with the derelict spacecraft *to search the memory banks of the mutinous computer HAL 9000 for clues to what went wrong . . . and what became of Commander Dave Bowman.  Without warning, a Chinese expedition targets the same objective, turning the recovery mission into a frenzied race for the precious information Discovery may hold about the enigmatic monolith that orbits Jupiter.  Meanwhile, the being that was once Dave Bowman, the only human to unlock the mystery of the monolith, streaks toward Earth on a vital mission of its own . . .


Bruce’s Appraisal:

            Funny, how time works coincidences.  My operation had me reading about Santa Claus in the Dark Tower right over Christmas, and now I pick up 2010: A Space Odyssey, just in time to be halfway through it when news of Roy Scheider’s death hits the airwaves.  I’d tried reading it before, but just couldn’t get into it.

            About five years ago, as a curiosity, I picked up 2001: A Space Odyssey.  The movie had always been a guilty pleasure in spite of Stanley Kubrick’s bizarre stylistic decisions, and I’d always wondered about the novel that had given rise to the movie.  I expected to flip through the pages and return it to the shelf, “for later.”  Instead, I became engrossed in a work of literary art that captured my every spare moment for several days.  Eagerly, I went to the sequel, and there I stopped for the next five years.

            At it turns out, 2010: Odyssey Two, is a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s movie, and not to Arthur C. Clarke’s original masterpiece.  While the alterations are largely cosmetic (aside from the fact that the location of the monolith is outside another planet), it took time and distance to work up the interest in a follow up to the vastly inferior film.  With time and distance, though, came appreciation.

            Arthur C. Clarke’s writing style can be seen as a study in economy.  Short, tightly constructed chapters combine as individual steps on the path to a climax.  Each paragraph has its topic sentence, and each chapter has its individual topic, as well.  The storytelling is lean but somehow simultaneously evocative.  There is just enough to get the imagination working overtime.  Despite—or likely because of—the lack of melodrama, a descent into the heart of Jupiter is literally breathtaking.  Reading that passage brings about a sense of falling, a very real vertigo that left me gripping the book’s covers.

And while this book picks up where the first movie leaves off, 2010 is not a slave to the sequel film.  Clarke wisely avoids the dated Cold War references that plague the second movie.  The Russians and Americans work together in an altogether modern fashion, and current tensions over Chinese imports and currency valuation lend still more credence to the author’s apparent prescience.

One great theme that struck home much more clearly in 2010 is the notion that Hal is Frankenstein’s monster.  Here is this thinking, apparently feeling entity, made by a man who seems to lack most of which he bestowed upon his creation.  That entity is given conflicting orders which he is bound to obey, and in doing so commits acts that humanity deems evil.  Yet there is pity here, because it is the fault of his flawed creators and not his own inadequacy that led to the tragedy of Dave Bowman’s mission in 2001, and threaten to repeat again in this book. 

The scene where Dr. Chandra explains to the crew of the Leonov that they are asking Hal to repeat the same sort of act that led to his mutiny in the first place is chilling and ever so relevant.  How many times have we humans repeated the same act expecting a different result, beating our heads against an impenetrable barrier in the very definition of insanity?  Compassion, even pity, arise for Hal, and the ending he receives in the novel is far more satisfying than that of the over-simplified movie version. 

Just as 2001 did before it, the end of this book stole my breath, captured my attention in a relentless barrage of cosmic awe.  There is the sense of such greater things at work, and Clarke ups the ante as he pulls the curtain back just a little farther than he did at the end of the first book.  Now we gain insight into the race that was so pointedly absent in the finale of 2001, and we gain just a hint as to their nature.  Again, the book sports a far superior ending to that of the movie, strong enough to engender relief that they didn’t go on to make a film of the third book.  Delightful.