The discovery of a black monolith on the moon leads to a manned expedition deep into the solar system, in the hope of establishing contact with an alien intelligence. Yet long before the crew can reach their destination, the voyage descends into disaster.
Length: 258 pages
Published: 2018 (originally 1968)
I read 2001: A Space Odyssey for my science fiction module at university. Arthur C Clarke is an author I’ve been wanting to check out for a while now, as he is one of the classic science fiction authors. So I’m glad this came up on my reading list this year.
The book starts off strangely, with a couple of sections that don’t initially seem to be connected to each other. I didn’t find the beginning boring or difficult to get into though, as the sections by themselves are interesting.
About a third of the way in, maybe a little more, I understood how the different parts were linked, and what the story was going to be. It does get a little strange at the end, but overall I enjoyed the book.
It is hard science fiction, but I think reading it has dispelled my wariness of hard science fiction to a degree. I read a hard science fiction story a good few years ago (can’t remember what it was now) and I had to give up part way in because it was just too much science. It was pages of scientific/engineering description and I just couldn’t follow it. So I was a little worried about this going in.
Though the science in 2001: A Space Odyssey is based on reality, and what is realistically possible (or believed to be), there wasn’t really anything in it that I didn’t understand. It’s a relatively short book, and quite an easy read as well.
The characters are the part of the book that let it down. It isn’t a book about people. It’s a book about wider themes, and science/space exploration. The characters are quite flat, and don’t really have much personality. After reading The Time Machine by HG Wells a few weeks before this, I can see how the characterisation in science fiction has really evolved over the years. 2001: A Space Odyssey has better characterisation than The Time Machine (the characters are basically functions of the plot), but not as good as the more modern science fiction stories such as Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie.
I can see why this is a science fiction classic, and I’ll be looking for more Arthur C Clarke to read.