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Friday, April 29, 2016

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) by Arthur C. Clarke

Still from 2001: A Space Odyssey
Book Review
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
by Arthur C. Clarke

The novel version of 2001 was written at the same time as the script for the film. Kubrick and Clarke actually collaborated on the novel as well, but Clarke was ultimately deemed to be the only author. For an audience raised on the film itself (as I was) the book comes as a revelation, explaining many key points the film leaves unsaid. Arthur C. Clarke is the ultimate example of the author as technological prophet, and the creator of the sub-genre of "hard science" science fiction. The most recent example of a cross-over success in this field is the Matt Damon starring film, The Martian. As a sub-genre, hard science fiction eschews plot devices which exceed the boundaries of known science.

2001: A Space Odyssey
was written before the first moon landing.  It's very easy to forget that, so accurate is Clarke's depiction of near-future space travel.  2001 was also path-blazing in it's treatment of subjects like Artificial Intelligence (the psychotic on-board computer, HAL),  alien life and the use of wormholes for interstellar travel.  So many exciting new ideas are included that it's easy to overlook the unimaginative prose.  The novel of 2001 is as concrete as the film version is artistic. 

   2001, the novel fills in the blanks to the point where you could say it takes the mystery out of the film. It's extraordinary to think of the two of them, Clarke and Kubrick, hashing out the novel.  2001 is based on parts of several existing Clarke short stories. The subtitle, "A Space Odyssey,"  clearly refers to the Greek Odyssey.  A key plot point that is unexplained in the film is that at the end, Dave travels through the monolith on the moon of Saturn (Jupiter in the film version).  He goes into an interdimension, where he encounters the alien's who are responsible for the Monolith placed on the earth millions of years ago (The "Thus Spake Zarathustra" scored scene in the film) and corresponding monoliths on the moon and the one on the moon of Jupiter/Saturn that is the object of the Space Odyssey. 


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