Rendezvous with Rama Mass Market Paperback – December 1, 1990
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"Devoted" by Dean Koontz
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- Lexile Measure : 990L
- Item Weight : 5 ounces
- Mass Market Paperback : 288 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0553287899
- ISBN-10 : 0553287893
- Publisher : Spectra (December 1, 1990)
- Product Dimensions : 4.17 x 0.77 x 6.86 inches
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #24,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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There’s something to note about the author’s style which is at the same time his greatest strength, but for some less sci-fi inclined could be problematic. Everything and everyone in the storie is subject to a rigid framework of something. For example, if not laws of physics then military rank. There are no characters that act in surprising ways, because all characters are able to use a scientific mind to make decisions in any situation they face. There are no elaborate relationships between characters, because their military rank or role in the team dictates their relationship to everyone else. If you want deep characters you need to look elsewhere. If you want to read an intellectually intriguing story about life in space, this is your book.
Clarke’s stories are surprisingly easy to read and keep at least myself glued to the story like few other authors can. Whether you are a scifi enthusiast or just scifi curious, I’d give this author’s books a try.
The whole novel is excellent as scientific speculation, pretty much as described in the book summary before you buy. Unfortunately, Clarke goes overboard on the scientific speculation. It's not that there's no nuance or metaphor. Lots of recent Sci-Fi seems to be too much metaphor to an extent it's really more like No-Sci vs. Sci-Fi. But Clarke wrote a story here where his hard Sci-Fi forgot to include other story elements - like a main plot, character development, or themes.
Still, it's a short read and a good addition to the category of "first contact" novels (like Sagan's "Contact", Cixin Liu's "Three Body" trilogy, Nevins/Pournelle's "Mote" and others). Three-stars for drilling into a very specific alien spaceship scenario so well, if not much else.
One downside to the story is that the way characters are used and portrayed is very cold and distant. Except maybe for the main character, the commander of the ship, there is little character development or reason to care about them as might be done in more modern novels. I guess this is just a style of the era it was written in. I also felt like the "dangers" they faced were too easily overcome. The fact that everyone seems to come out of these life threatening problems alive and well is another premature tension release that I think would be handled differently in a more modern novel.
But I am glad I read it and I did enjoy it for its classic nature and hard physics / science components fit into the narrative of the story. I have heard that the sequels of Rama are different and co-written or written by other authors... most people who have read them dont like them as much as the original so I think this will be the only one I read. But I am glad I did read it and know it now.
The story is one of Clarke’s best works of high-concept science-fiction, with themes similar to those in the “Odyssey” series. Like much of his high-concept work, the human characters tend to fall into more archetypal roles, serving to advance the big ideas rather than having fully-fleshed out identities of their own, but this is not such a problem for a 240-page book that clips along at a good pace. More problematic is the beginning of chapter 11, “Men, Women, and Monkeys,” which begins with a rather dated musing about the effects of low gravity on women’s bosoms and how that impacts male crew members. It’s a relatively small section, but it has aged poorly and only serves to highlight that nearly all of Clarke’s characters are men. Other than this, the story will entertain readers and leave them thinking about its ideas long after finishing, like the best of Clarke’s work. Clarke worked with Gentry Lee to write three additional sequels, “Rama II”, “The Garden of Rama”, and “Rama Revealed”, though these break from Clarke’s tone as Lee did most of the writing himself.
Top reviews from other countries
Rama remains as fresh and enjoyable a book at nearly fifty-one as it was forty years ago. What I appreciate most now is the spare, uncluttered style of the author. Clarke is not big on wordy prose and his emphasis on concepts and story is often at the expense of detailed characterisation. In some ways this makes the book dated. If you are expecting detailed interpersonal subplots then you are likely to be disappointed.
Rama is on a hyperbolic path through the solar system, so Commander Norton and the crew of the Endeavour have a limited amount of time to explore the vast interior of the craft. What I liked about this was that there are no sudden shock revelations as to what Rama 'really' is. The explorers struggle to make sense of an inexplicable alien environment and what they do discover comes via good old fashioned scientific investigation and reasoned deduction.
This is classic 'hard' science fiction, emotionally understated by todays standards perhaps, but no less powerful for that.
This time, instead of actual aliens coming to Earth and a prophecy of how humanity will eventually evolve, in Rendezvous With Rama we have a large alien vessel entering the solar system on a path that will take it inside the orbit of Mercury, around the Sun, and then, is anyone’s guess. Will it adjust it’s trajectory, pull a breaking manouvre and find a stable orbit in the solar system, or will it use the Sun and sling shot elsewhere? Where did it come from, who sent it, who or what is inside, what is it’s purpose?
Set in a time when humans have colonised several planets and moons in the solar system and space flight is quite normal, we have one space ship — the Endeavour, captained by a big fan of James Cook — that is able to get some fuel and rendezvous with this vessel and investigate it. However, once the vessel has passed inside the orbit of Mercury, the Mercurians decide to take matters into their own hands and ignore what the rest of humanity has to say on the matter.
As i say, this is a proper old school sci-fi first contact story at its best and well deserving of its place as a “SF Masterworks”.
Books like this show that people are often more interested in ideas than good writing. There's even a name for a type of book which is built around a single idea, which can be expressed in a few words, or even in one word - it's called high concept. Lots of Hollywood blockbusters are high concept: Planet Of The Apes, Snakes On A Plane, Jaws, Speed. The power of an idea is sobering as you sweat over editing your adverbs. If you haven’t got an idea that appeals to people, then polished prose probably won’t help. But I suppose, on a more reassuring and philosophical note, if the universe is circular, then there’s a chance that even poor writing can go all the way round and meet up with an interesting story somewhere at the back. That’s what seems to have happened with Rendezvous With Rama
The story itself is engrossing. The sense of mystery runs through the whole work, and in that way, it's ending is pleasing. You get many answers, including to some technical wondering of Rama, but never get a purpose of its visit. There are "chapters" of intense drama and excitement mixed with slow and purposeful exploration. The science in the book feels decent, and well researched, so helps pull you in.
The characters also feel real. They wonder if they should cheekily wave to camera's. They get excited sailing across an ocean. They wonder joking if women in space should be allowed, as their boobs distractingly bounce in zero G. One of the crew smuggles a piece of equipment on, and the book spends a whole chapter with the captain teasing it out of him and then we learn all about the crew member. Also when the 2nd in command gets a message and breaks protocol, and the series of wink-wink-nudge-nudge that happens as other people are subtly reminded that there's nothing to see here.
It's silly, but I felt often I wanted to know more about the characters. Why does the commander have 2 wife's, and how does Xmas look, for example. Did the guy ever win gold in the Lunar Olympics. I didn't expect that in a Sci-Fi book, honestly
I also enjoyed the squabbling scientists, including the revelation that the expedition only happens because the people voting have a vested interest ensuring that money isn't spent elsewhere possibly debunking their view of the Universe! You got to see the best and worst aspects of humanity in this, and as an extension of that I liked the way the Hermians weren't left as brutish people, they were humanised in a way, despite how they act.
This is a great read and I'm happy to recommend it. Book itself looks nice and reads easily, including type and layout and etc.