2001 A Space Odyssey (novel) – Into the Unknown

 

The third part of the story tells the reader about manned ‘Discovery’ (a space ship) voyage to Saturn. On, board, ‘Discovery’, is Frank Poole, David Bowmen and HAL 9000, a super computer (though it is not called that way), the nervous system of the space ship. The rest of the crew is deep in hibernation.

To the reader, at first, the third part appears totally disconnected from the earlier story. Yet one would speculate that there has to be a thread that connects the two. It is the surprise that Clarke offers the readers. From now on the tale catches up the ‘thriller’ train.

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Arthur’s collaboration with NASA is well known to everyone and the way he shows the ‘Discovery’ voyage to the reader looks so real, flesh & blood. The finer details of the spaceship and the intricate narration of the space voyage give a second hand experience and a state of being a part with the crew.

The scientific imagination of Clarke is bold, prophetic and lucid in its details.  As today’s reader one could find the opportunity of comparing this four and a half decade old imagination with the contemporary realities. This certainly adds to the pleasure of reading the work. However, at times we might feel that Clarke believed and over imagined on certain aspects. Nonetheless, his speculation of China as an emerging super power fits perfectly with current political reality.

I carefully save this article from divulging the plot details in total, mainly to ensure that the surprise has to live for first time reader.

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Clarke and Kubrick

The mastery of Clarke on the scientific facts of astronomy & space exploration is revealed in every page of the novel. Besides, his intellectual approach on the story indeed holds his fascination for the other worlds in space and the limitless awe inspiring secrets they hold, waiting to be unlocked by the quest of the thirsty human mind. The reader can understand the narrations of Bowmen’s on his marvels about his milieu, found in the later part of the novel are nothing but Clarke’s. The fascination is akin to that of a child’s and in a way we understand that in every scientific exploration quest, there underlies the fascination of a child that dwells within these explorers.

Usually science fictions, which often categorized under popular fiction, are designed to give an unputdownable reading experience. So they concentrate on developing the conflict to sustain the thrill, most of the time. Without travelling in this usual genre track, Clarke explores the unavoidable loneliness that a space traveler must experience. In the later part of the chapters, Bowmen is all alone, and Clarke takes a good time for the psychological analysis of the character. Bowmen, alone, takes up the huge responsibility of representing the mankind to the unknown superior species, on his shoulders. His decisions under critical situations, his total surrender when power of the unknown dominates, all are perfectly conceived.

If you have an inclination for science fiction, “2001 Space Odyssey” is a space adventure which you shouldn’t miss. If you belong to Physics faculty, like me, this work can be enjoyed to the fullest. No complaints if it is otherwise. You will still have a great rendezvous with this ‘Odyssey.’

 

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