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on March 24, 2004

This 1982 book (that consists of 55 chapters plus an epilog), by Sir Arthur C. Clarke (who "said for years that [a sequel] was clearly impossible"), is really a hybrid book since it attempts not only to be a sequel to his previous novel ("2001: A Space Odyssey," published in 1968) but also attempts to be a sequel to the 1968 movie (also called "2001: A Space Odyssey").

In this novel, a joint Russian-American space mission is sent to the planet Jupiter (on the spaceship called "Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov") to try and discover what happened to the previous American spaceship (called "Discovery") that was sent previously in 2001. As well, Leonov's crew is "to locate the alien artifact [also called the monolith] encountered by Discovery, and to investigate it to the maximum extent possible."

Because this book attempts to be a sequel to the previous novel and the 1968 movie, it appeals to four different types of readers:

(i) those who have not read the previous novel and have not seen the 1968 movie
(ii) those who have read the previous novel only
(iii) those who have seen the 1968 movie only and
(iv) those who have read the previous novel and have seen the 1968 movie (as I have).

Each of these four types of readers will probably rate this book as follows:

(1) Those who have not read the previous movie or have not seen the 1968 movie will enjoy this novel. Reading the previous novel or seeing the 1968 movie is not needed to understand this novel. There is good character interaction and there is both known and speculative space science throughout. (Examples of speculative science include the idea that gas giant planets such as Jupiter may have diamond cores and there may be aerial life forms in Jupiter's atmosphere.) There are excellent descriptions of Jupiter and its moons (especially of the moons Io and Europa). As well, this novel's climax (that occurs in chapter 52) is exciting and unexpected.

These readers will probably give the novel a 5 star rating.

(Note that these positive comments will apply to the other types of readers indicated below.)

(2) The reader who has read the previous novel only will notice some differences that interfere with the continuity from the previous novel. For example, Discovery is no longer orbiting one of planet Saturn's moons but is now orbiting one of Jupiter's moons. (No explanation for this is given.) Instead of the monolith being on one of Saturn's moons, it is now in orbit around one of Jupiter's moons. (Again, no explanation for this is given.) As well, the mystery and awe of the previous novel is replaced with the straightforwardness of this novel. Many of the questions left open in the previous novel are now answered.

These readers might give this novel 3 1/2 stars.

(3) Fans of the 1968 movie will have a stronger sense of continuity after reading this book than those who have only read the previous novel. However, they may not recognize some of the dialogue that was said to exist (since it appeared in the previous novel only.) The overwhelming mystery and awe of the movie is replaced with the straightforwardness of this novel. However, many of the questions left open in the movie are now answered.

These readers will perhaps give this novel 4 stars.

(4) Those who have read the previous novel and have seen the 1968 movie might be a bit confused since they have to contend with what has been said in (2) and (3) above. But with some reflection, they should be able to sort out this confusion.

Possible rating by these readers: 4 stars.

As mentioned in (1) above, there is quite a bit of true and speculative space science throughout this book. Thus, this book would have different appeal to yet two more types of readers:

(5) Those without space knowledge. Such readers, I believe, would find this novel fascinating.

These readers would probably give the novel 5 stars.

(6) Those with some space knowledge. These readers would also be intrigued with the novel especially the speculative space science. However, they would be very dissappointed with the novel's climax (in chapter 52). For this climax to occur, there would have to be sufficient mass (which there isn't). Further, if this does occur (and it does in the novel), the novel would have to abruptly end since the spaceships (Discovery and Leonov) and Jupiter's moons would be instantly incinerated.

Possible rating by these readers: 3 stars.

The average of the above six ratings is 4 stars.

Finally, there is the 1984 movie called "2010: The Year We Make Contact." It is a straightforward, traditional science fiction movie. You don't have to read this book to understand this movie.

In conclusion, this novel as Carl Sagan says is "a worthy successor to 2001." It appeals in different ways to different people.

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on May 9, 2000
I reread this novel for the third time recently and enjoyed it every bit as much as I had the first two times. 2001 is more famous and the movie is far better known, but 2010 is my favorite sci-fi book outside Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama.
My interest in learning about our solar system exploded after reading this novel. It is incredibly intriguing, you can visualize Jupiter and its moons up close, but you really are just dying to see them yourself. I feel like its such a tease, this is as close as I will ever get to experiencing the king of our solar system.
The descriptions of Europa are still highly accurate and you can't help but wonder how true the novel might really be. The ending was fantastic and quite unexpected, I really didn't see it coming.
What makes 2010 great I guess is the pacing. If there is any semblance of a "slow" part, it would be the beginning. After that the novel takes off and cannot be put down.
Best of all, 2010 does not have any of the mindbending trippy stuff that was at the end of 2001. I was quite thankful for that.
2061 and 3001 are also good reads, but it is 2010 that stands above the rest in Clarke's spectacular four part odyssey. I doubt that you'll be disappointed, and if you liked 2001, I guarantee that you won't be disappointed.
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on November 29, 2001
2010 brings the approach of a second Cold War between the United States and Russia, and at the same time, a problem is raised when the Discovery's orbit is decaying and risks a crash on Jupiter's moon, Io. Heywood Floyd, the director of the Discovery mission in 2001, is sent on the Russian ship Alexei Leonov to help stabilize the doomed space station. His other mission objectives is to solve the mysteries between HAL 9000's malfunction and the status of David Bowman after the encounter with TMA-2, or Big Brother, a gargantuan version of the monolith found on the Moon. And even more questions develop when the Chinese ship Tsien comes in contact with life on Europa.
The characters are very believable, with a few good lines from Max. "'Not to worry,' said Max cheerfully. 'All that will be gone when you wake up. It's--what do you say?--expendables. We'll eat your room empty by the time you need it. I promise.' He patted his stomach." (pg. 31) The plot develops quite rapidly, with strange new conflicts in every section. The author also gives excellent descriptions of what could be true behind many planets' and moons' secrets. "The core of Jupiter, forever beyond human reach, was a diamond as big as the Earth." (pg. 190)
Clarke tells the story very well, and everything seems to flow evenly, quite the contrary to my expectations. This book is never boring, and will keep you reading until your eyes bleed (or you finish the book, which ever comes first). The ending is not at all sudden, and it leaves the story wide open for more. Of course, Clarke has taken advantage of this fact in the sequel 2061, but that's beyond this review. This is a must-read for any Sci-Fi fan.
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on November 29, 2005
In the background of 2001, Clarke introduced us to an advanced civilization that helped Earth's "dumb" apes evolve millions of years ago into modern humans by teaching them how to kill prey. I'm fascinated by these mysterious characters lurking in the background. They, like us, evolved from ocean slime, then into intelligent, self-aware carbon-based beings like us, then into living machines, and finally into organized states of energy. Then the reader is suddenly translated into modern times. Humans, developing powerful artificial intelligent life, are at the cusp of taking the next evolutionary leap. This, post-Darwinian evolution, is what 2001 is REALLY about. 2010 continues the devlopment of this theme when we learn of the "lost" astronaut's fate. He has been "ascended" by the avanced beings into a being of energy. Still, the topic of what post-Darwinian evolution might mean to us in the near future is not really developed at all.

On the other hand, a book I recently read and strongly recommend, Beyond Future Shock by Alaniz, picks up where Clarke coldly left off. Like 2001, it is a strong science fiction book. Starting in WWI, tracking the lives, romances, struggles and triumphs of several infant Germans who will live through WWII, the Cold War, and into the age of youth cocktails when these "kids" are in their late 90s, Alaniz tracks the science behind the coming transhuman age with masterful, subtle "Clarkian" writing. He also tracks the potential perils, and the problem of Luddism and religion versus science. As you sink deep into Alaniz's powerful imagery, you will find yourself thinking about mankind's various potential fates in the coming few decades: some horribly dystopian some reasonably utopian. Singularity (read the new book by Kurzweil) will soon be upon on us.

For me, Alaniz has finished with genius what Clarke only touched upon in 2001. I am fully sastisfied at last.

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VINE VOICEon December 5, 2012
"2010 - Odyssey Two" is a strong sequel to Arthur C. Clarke's renowned "2001 - A Space Odyssey". The story is well-crafted and the plot moves briskly, which makes for an enjoyable read. It's not deep on character development, and the action is infrequent, but delivered smartly and purposefully to provide the fuel for an interesting plot, expansive exposition of space, and exploration of key themes.

Like the first novel, Clarke crafts his story and writing very deliberately to create a heavy and epic atmosphere. His primary theme revolves around evolution, and builds upon the mythology he created in "2001" by expanding on the role played by the unseen aliens in planting and encouraging life throughout the universe, including Earth and elsewhere within our own solar system.

He spends just enough time on backstory to refresh readers on the salient points from the first book, but more importantly, provides a legend (within one of two foreword's/author's notes in this specific edition) to where the author followed storylines from his original novel, or from the famous movie which contained slight modifications.

And yes, Clarke provides satisfying answers to many of the questions left without conclusion in the first book and movie.

Clarke returns Dr. Heywood Floyd in this space-traveling saga, but this time in the lead role. He and two other Americans join a Russian crew aboard a starship headed to Jupiter to connect with the presumably abandoned and derelict 'Discovery', obtain information about the Monolith and find out what happened to lost crewman Dave Bowman.

Dr. Floyd is a strong lead and the most three-dimensional of all characters in the story. His motivation for leaving his family on the very long journey: "Four men had died, and one had disappeared, out there among the moons of Jupiter. There was blood on his hands, and he did not know how to wash them clean."

The trademark of great storytelling is the ability to convey ideas and themes through demonstration rather than outright telling. As a reader, I'd rather come to understand a characters' nature and motivations through the demonstration of certain behaviors and backstory, rather than be spoon-fed and literally told of one's characteristics. Clarke does a nice job of layering on the flesh of Dr. Floyd early in the story, and continuing to build as the plot progresses. None of the other characters on board the Russian craft are more than two dimensional, which increases the focus of the novel on Floyd, Star-Child/Post-Human Dave Bowman, and perhaps the story's central character: Jupiter and its moons.

Among the Americans is Dr. Chandra, the parent/inventor of HAL9000, the 'Discovery's' near-sentient ship-computer that killed its original crew, which led Bowman to decommission its' cognizance. Chandra plays a key role as he works to restart HAL with the hope that he can help guide the ship back to earth, but also to shed light on why it developed the compu-psychoses that led to its' violent behavior. Chandra is drawn as the lovingly patient and near-obsessed parent focused on nurturing his lost child. The relationship between Chandra and HAL generate some terrific scenes throughout the book as HALs personality reemerges, including the first time it awakens from it's 9-year-long sleep: "Good morning, Dr. Chandra. This is Hal. I am ready for my first lesson."

Dr. Floyd notices and comments on Dr. Chandra's work: " watch the steady regrowth of Hal's personality, from brain-damaged child to puzzled adolescent and at length to slightly condescending adult." "(It's like) disturbed youngsters were straightened out by all-wise descendants of the legendary Sigmund Freud! Essentially the same story was being played out in the shadow of Jupiter." The Chandra-HAL relationship creates tension within the plot as the crew can never fully trust HAL following his behavior in "2001".

"2001" concluded with the Monolith's aliens shedding Bowman of his human form and 'raising' him up to a being that needs no real form, but exists as pure energy. This evolved Bowman returns in "2010" and acts as Clarke's guide to Jupiter and it's moons. He uses Bowman's exploration as a means to delve into the physical nature of those celestial bodies and postulation on what life could exist in those extreme environments. The exposition is detailed and written with a poetic flourish.

Bowman is the evolutionary result of the experiments performed on the pre human man-apes by the Monolith millions of years ago, and famously portrayed in the original movie. In "2010", he becomes aware of how the alien beings introduced life and evolution throughout the universe, and monitor their progression over millions of years. These aliens are, for all intents and purposes, God.

Clarke writes that the aliens, " all the galaxy, they had found nothing more precious than Mind, they encouraged its dawning everywhere. They became farmers in the fields of stars; they sowed, and sometimes they reaped."

More ominously, he continues, "And sometimes, dispassionately, they had to weed."
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on May 2, 2015
This was written 20-30 years after 2001 and it shows. It seems Clarke himself forgot the mystery and what made 2001 a good novel. This book is nothing but 'spaceship drama' that I think the 'Days of our Lives' crowd might enjoy, but not any sci-fi readers. I got to about page 168 and threw it in the trash as I'd never been so bored by a book, and believe me I tried, I usually quit if I don't like a book by page 100. Up to where I quit there was -NOTHING- that happened, at all, in this book, regarding the events from 2001.

"Hey look, the monolith (cheesily named Big Brother in this book), let's look at it from thousands of miles away for 50+ pages"

"Hey look, it's HAL, let's see what he remembers.. oh nothing, we wiped his memory, so he's a non-character"

"Hey the Chinese are gonna beat us to the derelict ship, oh never mind they landed up Europa and got eaten by a giant alien monster, but let's not investigate, let's sit in our space ship and make dumb jokes about how Russian or how American we are".

This novel was total crap. I should have listened to my inner critic in which you never read a sequal that was written more than 5 years after the original. The author's change, a lot, and in the case of Clarke, lose any 'magic' they had in their writing. 2001 was a compelling story about evolution and mystery, 2010 is a 'romp' through spaceship drama and... dolphins?
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on March 29, 2003
2010 is one of the rare cases where the sequel is almost as good as the original - in some ways it is even better.
There are some quibbles of course. In building on 2001, Clarke chose to follow the movie rather than the book (hence Jupiter instead of Saturn, the recap of Bowman's conflict with Hal gives the movie dialog and so on). Also, 2001 was almost austere in its simplicity. Dialog and character development were skeletal. The reader was positioned as an external observer - in that sense, 2001 was a challenge to the reader. 2010 is dumbed down in a sense. Character development (never a Clarke strength) is marginally better than 2001 but the dialog is plentiful, making it a far easier read. Not a criticism, one just misses the simplicity and elegance of 2001.
Having said that, 2010 can easily claim to be one of the landmarks of science fiction. Imagination has always been Clarke's forte and the way he comes up with the various ideas of primitive life on Europa, the proto-sun of Lucifer and so on are nothing short of brilliant. The story line builds on 2001 and takes us further down the road, telling us more about David Bowman, the monolith and the intelligence behind it. All with a very human touch to it - witness the fate of the Tsien.
And as always, Clarke uses his trademark sly humor and simple analogies to make technical concepts easy to understand. Language has always been Clarke's second strength and he paints superb pictures with words, describing the spacescape, the flight of the two ships, the exploration of Jupiter, Io and Europa (in fact fans of Clarke will recognize the Jupiter descriptions from his earlier short story classic "A Meeting with Medusa"). A very good book.
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on May 20, 2007
In every way, this book is worthy to succeed the masterwork 2001: A Space Odyssey. That is quite a rare thing, considering the hype and standard that its predecessor set.

Like the predecessor, this book is prophetic. In 1980's, only had the single-shot Apollo-Soyuz mission to build on. Now joint Russo-American spaceflight are standard operating procedures. But that is the job of science fiction--to blaze the trail.

I was surprised how well this book read. Either Clarke's style has improved immensely since penning or he is free to tell his own tale without the obsessive-compulsive perfectionist Stanly Kubrick constantly nit-picking, as described in The Lost Worlds of 2001. Maybe it is a little of both. Either way, this book was a breeze to read. Really, this book wanted to be read.

There are several discontinuities, however, that let me down. Not just the flip-flop of Saturn to Jupiter. Nor Clarke tweaking the story to bring it scientifically up-to-date--in fact, I appreciate him doing this.

The greatest strength of the "2001" books is that they take current science and take it a few steps into the future. So unquestionably you are getting science fiction, but it is realistic enough that you feel that NASA could announce any one of these programs in the next few months. As the blurbs on the flyleaf of the original run of 2001 said, , "You are commander of the USS Discovery . . ." It felt exactly like that!

The plot was squishy at times, and if Clake had done one or two more reivison, I imagine he would have gotten closer to the film version 2010: The Year We Make Contact, which had the better plot and plot twists.

But what bothered me are the changes that are really retroactive continuity changes. For example, Bowman is no longer the godling Starchild, but something less. The analogy of "pet dog" and an ever-present "leash" (Ch. 38) are a far cry from benevolent Clindar of the early drafts found in "The Lost Worlds of 2001." Remember that Bowman is a mirror character to Moon-Watcher. After getting the brain boost from the Monolith, each says the same thing "he was mater of the world, but he was not quite sure what to do next. But he would think of something." Now Bowman is a lapdog.

Also, Clarke paints himself into a logical corner. If Dave Bowman is "beyond love and hate, desire and fear"(Ch. 36)--the things that make us quintessentially human--, and if the Firstborn are in danger of evolving into "the stupefying boredom of absolute omniscience" (Ch. 52), they why bother with cultivating intelligence? The point of the monoliths is--admittedly in an indirect way--to stupefy intelligent species? Why bother to climb the top of the evolutionary ladder, if there is nothing at the top?

And then there is the assumption that omniscience is stupefying. Why does Clarke believe this? Where is his hard data?

I mention these three caveats solely because they are the cracks in the franchise's foundation. 2001: A Space Odyssey is euphoric, 2010: Odyssey Two is idealistic, 2061: Odyssey Three is optimistic, but 3001 The Final Odyssey ends up sarcastic. This book marks the beginning of the under-the-breath dread that rapidly crescendos into a scream. I would like to look the other way in this subtle matter, but I cannot. I respect the stores to well not to say something.
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on September 30, 2001
Reading the sequels to 2001 is a painful experience, and this one is the best of a bad lot. As a stand-alone novel, it actually has considerable merit. Clarke still shows a powerful and provocative imagination, and the events that unfold still manage to fill us with wonder. However, this is achieved at the cost of demolishing other, more central wonders, for no better reason than to service the plot.
2001 was a supremely intelligent work. I don't mean that it was written in intelligent sounding phrases or possessed the convolutions that pass for intelligence among the sophisticated. I mean that it respected our intelligence. It gave us room to reach our own conclusions. It never channelled our thinking along furrows already ploughed into the mental landscape. The most important skill that a writer can cultivate is to reveal just enough to provoke thought, but to respect the reader enough to leave the actual thinking to us.
Therefore, the star-child's actions were left for us to interpret. The reason behind HAL's mutiny was left to our imagination. The nature of the mentor race was left to our own speculation. Most importantly, the ways in which humanity would change in the wake of the star-child's awakening were left to our own musings. We were left with a sense of awe and something akin to a spiritual awakening. Would we become a better race? Would we leave our earthly cradle and join a cosmic community? Would our focus change from an ingrown provincialism to an outreaching cosmopolitanism? For that matter, did the star-child rid the world of its orbiting nuclear weapons to give the human race a fresh chance, or did it destroy humanity because we were beyond redemption?
This is the essence of good science fiction: to leave us with lingering reflections long after the final chapter is finished. How discouraging then, to have the mysteries laid bare, and our own reflections directed along the confines of some dried up mental riverbed. 2010, for all its cleverness, punctures our imaginings. The star-child turns out to be a mediocre messenger boy, the progenitor race is arrogant and aloof, and humanity doesn't change at all.
Certainly, there are other imaginative developments to replace these, but do they really belong in the universe of the original work? The developments in 2010 could easily have been written for an independent novel and the result would still have been pure Clarke. Here, the wonder of the present work is achieved by destroying the wonder of the earlier work, and this is a bad trade.
If you don't care about the earlier novel, you won't be disappointed by the developments in this one. The plot, themes and imagination are all up to Clarke's usual standards. But if you are like me, you will find the reading experience greatly diminished by the realisation that these achievements were made at the expense of a higher and more inspiring vision.
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on February 26, 2015
I'm happy to say that Arthur C. Clarke's "2010: Odyssey Two" is a better book than the first book in the series. The reason for this is simple: the first book is written as a descriptive novel of science and science fiction revolving around a fairly weak plot. This book is written as a true science fiction story. Some of the later (Bowman) chapters in the book are still highly descriptive in nature, but then, since Bowman is existing on his own, there's not much that can be done about that. My only real complaints with the book are that 1) there are a couple of swaths cut and pasted directly from "2001" directly into it, and 2) Clarke "revised history" by aligning the prequel events with the "2001" MOVIE instead of with the BOOK. This revisionist history isn't as bad as what Crichton did with The Lost World: A Novel (Jurassic Park Book 2) (where he brings back a thoroughly dead character because he didn't die in the movie), but still, the change of location from Saturn to Jupiter is a bit noticeable. Even so, these negatives are not huge. Thus, I'm happy to rate this book at a Very Good 4 stars out of 5.

The novels in Arthur C. Clarke's "Space Odyssey" series are:

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
2. 2010 (Space Odyssey)
3. 2061 (Space Odyssey Book 3)
4. 3001 (Space Odyssey Book 4)
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