My copy: 9780345358790
Well, the world of “2001” is back with it’s third installment, which I hadn’t heard of until I watched an awesome series I downloaded called “Prophets of Science Fiction” and got to learn more about Arthur C. Clarke. (the series is downloadable from Amazon.com and iTunes, and made me expand my sci-fi horizons and buy works from several authors I hadn’t read before, like Clarke.
Anyhoo, the basic premise of the story is not exploration of Jupiter (or “Lucifer,” the new sun) and the surrounding planets. The story follows a crew sent to explore Halley’s Comet. Dr. Heywood Floyd, the one with two encounters with the black monoliths already under his belt, is on this mission, due to the time differences in space which have helped lengthen his life and had him out live all his former crew. Needing a purpose, he sets off with the ship Universe.
While the mission is underway, you get glimpses of the socio-economics to play part in the story away from the crew itself. Tsung is a Chinese entrepreneur backing the Universe’s mission, and there’s some dealings with South African scientists and (possible) spies desiring to go land on Europa. Landing, as of 2010, had been forbidden, but that’s not to say the science bases at Ganymede haven’t had satellites trying to observe the world much as possible.
The Halley’s Comet portion’s interesting and gives you the feeling that you could probably see what’s there the way Clarke describes it. However, it’s only a portion of the story. The Universe is the closest and best bet for rescue of the crew of the ship Galaxy (with Heywood’s grandson in it), which has been forced to land (in a way I won’t dare spoil) on Europa. So, the crew goes to rescue them, and the rest of the story takes off from there.
The book is full of inquiry and intrigue, many players and a rather interesting plot and scientific speculation about the mystery surrounding Europa and the life it holds within. Of course, at some point, Dave Bowman and HAL-9000, in their mysterious ways, make an appearance in the story, as well as the iconic monolith, though I was a bit disappointed they weren’t a bigger part. I suppose their time comes better in the next installment, “3001.”
All in all, I found this book interesting and will definitely keep reading. Concerning the prominence of the South Africans in this story, it proves that stories are really products of their times, as the book was originally published in 1987 and you had the controversy against Apartheid swinging into all-time highs (the Lethal Weapon franchise had their 2nd film use that plot point, too, remember?) Let’s just say you have curious scientists vying against political interests and I’ll leave it at that. I did find the revelation, when some of the Galaxy crew goes to explore Europa, and the discussion that ensued, fun to read and speculate on.
So far, the “2001” series is the only bunch of Clarke books I’ve read, but I can get a feel for him as an author, willing to do much speculation based on the known science of the time and make a fantastic tale around the possibilities. I do have to wonder what mysteries the monolith still holds, and “3001” may hold those answers best, but “2061” does leave you wondering at the very last pages…