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2061: Odyssey Three Mass Market Paperback – April 13, 1989
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From the Inside Flap
Arthur C. Clark, creator of one of the world's best-loved science fiction tales, revisits the most famous future ever imagined in this NEW YORK TIMES bestseller, as two expeditions into space become inextricably tangled. Heywood Floyd, survivor of two previous encounters with the mysterious monloiths, must again confront Dave Bowman, HAL, and an alien race that has decided that Mankind is to play a part in the evolution of the galaxy whether it wishes to or not.
About the Author
Arthur C. Clarke has long been considered the greatest science fiction writer of all time and was an international treasure in many other ways, including the fact that an article by him in 1945 led to the invention of satellite technology. Books by Clarke—both fiction and nonfiction—have sold more than one hundred million copies worldwide. He died in 2008.
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2061: Odyssey Three is a contrast to the earlier books in the 20xx universe. Where 2001 and 2010 were both fairly intense books, with a strong degree of antagonism (whether it be from a person or a hostile environment) and even a little bit of a fear factor, 2061 showcases Clarke as a master story teller - because it's only through his mastery of prose that Clarke can write a book that's almost entirely a fluff piece and still spin a tale that people want to read. To me, 2061 felt, very literally, like a group of youngsters sitting around a fireplace begging grandpa to "tell us about the time you went to Haley's comet" one more time. The fairly short novel (hardcover clocks in at 204 pages) really lacks any sort of antagonistic element, and is more a simple adventure story with a lot of flashbacks and other odds and ends.
While a good story, told by a sci-fi master, I kept wanting a little more from it. The "exciting" part of the book really doesn't start until we're over 100 pages in (keeping in mind that's nearly halfway through the book), when the star ship that Floyd's grandson is a crew member on, is hijacked and forced to crash land on Europa. Fans of 2010 will remember when the obelisk/star child tells humanity "all of these planets are yours, except Europa, attempt no landings there," but when one ship crash lands there and another is sent to rescue it, the response from Europa is a bit lackluster (I wont reveal what actually happens, don't want to spoil things) and I think Clarke missed an opportunity to expand on the cryptic, otherwordlyness of that particular plot element.
As others who gave the book 3 and 4 stars point out frequently, 2061 is by no means a bad book and is worth reading, but it doesn't do much to advance the 20xx universe outside of adding a little depth and detail.
Arthur C. Clarke does a splendid job of describing things like Halley's Comet, its surface, and even handles with the same level of shock, amazement, wonder, and awe the discoveries in "2001" or more accurately, in "2010" when Dr. Chinese Guy I mistakingly called "Tsien" in my other review reveals there is life on Europa. But things like finding vaguely maybe-organic matter beneath the surface of Halley's Comet is hardly the highest in this regard.
But first, the book itself. The story does well in extending the style and tradition of the Odyssey series, setting up several plotlines to be handled in a later sequel (which 3001 does not count because it goes off on its own story) involving an African terrorist group only revolving around the name "Shaka" (as in Shaka Zulu).
The story, though, is almost nonexistant. It involves two massive passenger spacecraft, Galaxy and Universe, with Universe carrying Heywood Floyd, a 100+ year old with the physical health of a 60 year old, and others to explore Halley's Comet, while Galaxy is across the Solar system probing Europa.
A terrorist attack by someone from this "Shaka" organization causes Galaxy to crashland on Europa. She (the terrorist) is conveniently killed in the crash, and now Galaxy calls for help, and Rohan will answer. I mean, "Universe".
So there's no real drama, as Galaxy is safe and has enough supplies to last the several months journey. Universe, meanwhile, discovers a method to cut the travel time down to a few weeks and undertakes it.
The big revelations made revolve chiefly around a Europan mountain called "Mount Zeus" which is not very cleverly disguised by Arthur C. Clarke under the title of an old Beatles song, which if you've read "2010" pretty much gives it away right then and there (Non-Spoiler alert is further ruined since he mentions it involving someone named Lucy. If you still don't get it: "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds")
So Mount Zeus is made entirely of diamond. In fact, it's part of Jupiter's original core that crashed onto the surface only recently.
This is of extreme interest to an Afrikaaner scientist Rolf van der Berg, who takes Heywood Floyd's grandson Chris Floyd out to study it.
In the process, they discover sentient life in Europa, life that has established a village around the black Monolith, and has stripped all the metal off the Tsien for some odd reason.
All of a sudden, the minimalist story is given a sudden push towards the ending, and events suddenly unfold rapidly, in a Harry Turtledove past-tense style where some big event is about to happen, then the next chapter takes place AFTER the event, with people talking about the event.
As well, there are some things which due apparently to a lack of a proper sequel, come off as massive Red Herrings:
- "Shaka". An entire small chapter is devoted solely to describing the mystery behind this terrorist group. After its operative on the Galaxy dies, it's never mentioned again save for passing remark involving her.
- van der Berg's uncle and his contacts he is so secretive in contacting regarding Mount Zeus.
- The potentially organic matter in Halley's Comet.
- The constant and, quite frankly, annoyingly repetitious talk and descriptions about Io
A lot of areas of this book show signs of what is to come in the poorly written sequel "3001"---there is copious description and detail that ventures into the realm of opaquity, and some repetition in the form of copied passages straight from 2010, though nowhere near as pointless or recycled as in the sequel.
Ultimately, though, while it was an interesting read and loads of fun for the discoveries on Europa, it contributed nothing overall except to set up a sequel which never came.
Most recent customer reviews
I felt like I was on a wild adventure throughout the story.
For the science fiction lover.