Friday, July 11, 2008

Rendesvous with Rama

Arthur C Clarke passed away on 19 March 2008, and I found no better way than to commemorate his life and career than by reading one of his books.

I have to admit I was never a fan of Clarke. Growing up I had been attracted to the works of other authors, or in the full throws of genre fantasy fandom (Dragonlance, plenty of Forgotten Realms, and other such fantasy pulp). Thus it was not until I had picked up this book that I had read any of Clarke's material.

Have to say I didn't know what I was missing! Rama is a somewhat thin book, but well written and engaging nonetheless. It is done in the traditional style of hard SF: characters are a bit thin (the main character has some depth...brought about mostly by multiple wives), and are used mostly as a foil for exploring the great scientific mystery. As such mystery abounds, but perhaps not long enough. It was an enjoyable romp as the characters explored Rama, but in the end I don't think enough secrets were revealed for the pay-off. That being said, there is word it is being made into a movie (or at the least optioned), something I can certainly get excited about.

Clearly, though, the book was a setup for a sequel. I bought the sequel, though I'm told it is not as good. Well, I certainly intend to read it anyway (I got mine used -- in hardback -- though I'm disappointed that the previous owner was a smoker!)


NukeHavoc said...

This is one of my all-time favorite books, and I've read it several times (I'm about due for another reading actually).

I love how the book's focused on the exploration of Rama, and how real-world physics often comes into play (e.g. the orientation of the Cylindrical Sea, the thawing of said sea and the resulting weather effects, the tripods ... it was all great.

Regarding characterization, I'd say it has enough. I think the captain's depth comes more from his connection to the great explorers of the past (specifically, James Cook and his own H.M.S. Endeavor) than his multiple wives.

The sequels are packed with 'character' (which apparently means 'dysfunctional characters who can't possibly get along with one another) and frankly, I'll take the first novel any day.

btw, Wikipedia says Clarke never intended for there to be a Rama sequel, despite the ending. Given that Rama came out in 1972, and the sequel came out in 1989, I'm inclined to believe him. :)

Nathan said...

The first Rama book was an excellent set-up for a trilogy. After reading the first one I was *dying* for the sequel... The sequels were co-written with Gentry Lee, and they took a much more mystical approach, rather than the hard SF of the first book.

They're completely different from the original. Kind of like what happened to The Pitch Black sequel and also Asimov's Foundation series.

Lance said...

Sounds interesting - I haven't read this one yet, so I'll have to check it out.

BTW, I just finished Startide Rising, and it was fantastic. Great recommendation, and this series has made me an instant Brin fan.

Also, I just started a new one that's got me enthralled - Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan. It's like a fusion of cyberpunk and a hardboiled detective novel - sooo good!