Book Review: The Odyssey Series: 2001, 2010, 2061, and 3001, by Arthur C. Clarke – National Space Society

Arthur Clarke has written another excellent science fiction novel in 2010, the second part of the four-volume Odyssey series. Each book offers another view of the monolith, which is a surrogate for an alien civilization. The thrilling adventures of 2001 are carried on in this sequel. This novel describes an intelligent species emerging on Europa and how their evolution and chances for survival seem to be advanced by an unknown alien intelligence contained in the monolith.

2010: Odyssey Two describes the attempt to rescue the spacecraft Discovery. In the novel 2001, Discovery is abandoned when David Bowman enters the monolith at its destination, the planet Saturn. At the end of the novel 2001, Discovery is left in orbit around the Saturn moon, Iapetus.

As a note, in 2001, the black monolith on the Moon sends a signal in the direction of Saturn. In the following series and in the movies, Saturn is replaced by Jupiter. This change was made because the movie director, Stanley Kubrick, felt it was much simpler to use special effects for Jupiter than for Saturn with its many rings. Once Kubrick made this decision for the movie 2001, the book sequels and the movies changed the location from Saturn to Jupiter. Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, becomes a main location.

The action in 2010 begins nine years after the disastrous Discovery mission to Jupiter in 2001. A joint U.S.-Soviet crew on the Russian spaceship Leonov is sent to rendezvous with the Discovery spaceship drifting in the vicinity of Europa. Dr. Heywood Floyd, who was sent to the Moon to investigate the monolith in 2001, is part of the Leonov crew, providing continuity in characters between the two stories.

The mission is designed to recover HAL 9000, the human-like computer, in order to determine what happened to the spaceship and the two astronauts on board at the time the Discovery became disabled. A Chinese spaceship, Tsien, gets a head start to Jupiter ahead of Leonov, whose crew felt it would be upstaged by the Tsien. The Tsien finds a monolith in the space close to Europa. The Tsien lands on Europa in order to resupply its fuel tanks with water. While on Europa, the Tsien is attacked and destroyed.

The Leonov does find the Discovery and sends its computer expert aboard in order to get HAL 9000 back to its original state. As the crew of the Leonov prepares to return to Earth with Discovery, a mysterious message appears on their screens. The message tells them that must leave within a couple of weeks, but does not give a reason nor does the message give any indication of what will happen if they do not leave. David Bowman, who was lost in the monolith in 2001, appears as sort of a ghost to Dr. Floyd and repeats the message.

By using the fuel from Discovery, the Leonov is able to leave Europa within the time limit and begins its journey home. As it leaves the vicinity of Jupiter, Leonov is struck by a shock wave. When the Leonov crew recovers from the shock wave, they find that Jupiter has been reformatted into a shining star which Clarke calls Lucifer. Jupiter had been ignited by a proliferating mass of monoliths. When the Leonov returns to Earth, there are two suns in the sky. The monolith in orbit over Europa disappears, but reappears on the surface of Europa.

2010 is an exciting space adventure following the spacecraft Leonov to Europa, and is an excellent addition to the Odyssey series. Clarke is an award winning science fiction writer and this novel is up to his standard.

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