2001 A Space Odyssey (novel) – The Voyage begins
Not many authors would’ve enjoyed the rarest opportunity of shaping the same plot as a novel and a screenplay, simultaneously, as Arthur C. Clarke. Of course the two versions have a good amount of contextual variations. What started as an ambitious lucid scientific dream, written on paper, on the summer of 1964, was handed almost as a final manuscript to Stanley Kubrick. The backdrop story of this novel is as interesting as the novel itself.
Kubrick fresh after his phenomenal success with his work Dr. Strangelove (1964) was then looking for a scientific adventure and he collaborated with one of the prolific science fiction writers of our time, Arthur C. Clarke. With lot of brainstorming sessions with Kubrick this space adventure saga took form and Clarke through his wizardry writing shaped it.
“2001 A Space Odyssey”, to date, stands fresh with its profound scientific thinking that backs up the saga. Even as the readers make a date with the novel now- in real time- more than a decade of the novel’s ‘plot time’ of 2001, the surprises it offers don’t fall short. The novel offers us one of the greatest space adventure experiences that the reader had ever had, leaving them utterly inspired.
The novel is divided into three parts. The first part traces the early history of mankind, their evolution as ape men, through the story of the Moon watcher. This part of the story high lights the horrific realities that the early men might have faced and the spirit with which they confronted nature’s challenges, redeeming them.
The second part takes us to the first year of the 21st century, where man has developed far beyond the imaginations of that of the primitive man. Technology advances making man to set up lunar colonies. (Not even the first manned mission to moon had become a reality then) A rumor spreads in world media that an epidemic has spread in the lunar colony, triggering fear. To investigate this anomaly in the Clavius base in the lunar colony, Dr. Henry Floyd, a scientific officer is sent from earth to moon.
On his way to the base he meets his Russian friend, a fellow scientist, who like any other is so curious about the rumor. He shrewdly avoids answering it. There in the Clavius base he learns about the anomalous generation of an intense magnetic field. The investigation on the site results nothing but an ebony monolith, now excavated and waiting for Dr. Floyd to inspect. (A monolith like this comes in the Moon watcher’s story too. Is it different or is it the same?!). The whole situation is referred as T.M.A –I, Tycho Magnetic Anomaly, named after the bizarre magnetic field that it creates. Dr. Floyd is left clueless but only with surprise. In an unexpected moment, the monolith delivers a deafening radio frequency burst, and then gets back to its in-animated state. The direction of the radio signal points towards Saturn.
Floyd speculates that the monolith might be a solar powered device. But what makes someone to bury it deep under lunar ground. The test results prove that it wasn’t buried by men, beyond doubt, for it is three million year old. This raises the perinea doubt of mankind, ‘Are we alone?’