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2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

by Arthur C. Clarke

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,223114381 (3.99)291
  1. 171
    2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke (ksk21)
  2. 90
    Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (riodecelis, artturnerjr)
  3. 53
    I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (benmartin79)
  4. 00
    The Cassiopeia Affair by Chloe Zerwick (MinaKelly)
  5. 00
    Shield by Poul Anderson (MinaKelly)
  6. 00
    The Memory of Whiteness by Kim Stanley Robinson (Valashain)
    Valashain: Robinson's work shows the same kind of optimism in the future that Clarke seems to have. The style and subject of The Memory of Whiteness reminded me of Clarke most but this goes for other works by Robinson as well.
  7. 23
    Titan by Stephen Baxter (jseger9000)
    jseger9000: The stories have many similarities (mainly a manned expedition to Saturn), though Baxter's story is much darker.
  8. 24
    I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream [short story] by Harlan Ellison (artturnerjr)
    artturnerjr: Another 60s SF tale that takes the notion of malevolent AI to nightmarish extremes.

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A few years ago, I watched the Stanley Kubrick movie 2001: A Space Odyssey from the comfort of my living room. And I’ll admit that I did not understand much of it. Frustratingly little. And then I didn’t think about it much more. When I heard that a local art museum would be showing it in the original 70mm film, I realized that the only bits I remembered were the guy jogging around the space ship, the red eye of Hal, and something about a space baby. So I committed to reading the novel version before I re-watched the movie, hoping that would give me some better background.

And it did! As Arthur C. Clarke explains in the 1999 Introduction, he wrote this novel based on one or two short stories that Kubrick liked, and he gave the manuscript in sections to Kubrick for notes. Even though each piece can stand alone, in a unique relationship like this, I think each is stronger when paired with the other. Kubrick’s film provides some incredible visuals that are more breathtaking than the words in Clarke’s novel; Clarke’s novel provides essential narration and internal monologue that is necessary to understand Kubrick’s movie.

I’m no great student of film, but I know enough to know how foolish it would be to critique Kubrick’s choices of what to include in this movie. The things I would have done differently probably would have hurt the movie in other ways. But I did miss the hypnotic visuals that the monolith displays to distract its experimental subjects while probing their minds. With those, I think, I would have understood a little better that the monolith was interacting with its environment and influencing the creatures around it. I also loved Clarke’s description of traveling through the Star Gate—Kubrick made different choices that probably helped that scene feel more terrifyingly oppressive. Clarke was able to get that impression across with words, but Kubrick had to rely on the visuals alone (also, how did he even create those effects in 1968?). And I would have loved to see Saturn’s rings the way Clarke describes them.

The novel itself is a good read. The bite-sized chapters help it feel like a short book even though some chapters don’t contain any dialogue at all. The tension builds gradually throughout, and the plot ticks along. Like all sci fi, it’s fascinating to see how close the author got to some technological innovations and how far off on others (I liked the tablet computer that plugs into the commuter spaceship and downloads every newspaper in the world once an hour).

The characters are a little two-dimensional, but that actually didn’t bother me as much in this story as it has in others. At least here, the reader gets their motivations explained, even if they don’t emerge much beyond their functions. And Clarke includes enough small, humanizing details that the reader remembers that they are more than their positions—Dr. Floyd hoping that his face can be seen in the photograph in front of the monolith, and Bowman feeling dread when he sees the hotel room and determines that he must be mad, for example.

The novel is not a masterpiece of its medium the way the film is (at least visually). But it has an important role to play. The film is simply not able to provide us with all the information necessary to understand and appreciate everything that’s happening in the story. The novel fills in those gaps and then some. The films leaves us with something to puzzle out, but the novel leaves us with something to contemplate. ( )
  JLSmither | Sep 6, 2014 |
I have never seen the movie on which this book is based. I think I need too. Most of the book was interesting, and the part with HAL was creepy. But the end - I have no idea what happened. The dude became a star child? What the....? Esoteric Sci-fi, while lauded as ground-breaking and "asking the big questions" about humanity, space, aliens and our purpose in life, often leaves me confused and slightly irritated. If the average person can't understand your point, then you have failed in reaching the people most in need of being reached. I'll watch the movie and see if it helps. I'll read the next 3 novels because it's a set and I like things to be tidy. But I don't have much hope for it to actually make sense. ( )
  empress8411 | Apr 13, 2014 |
4.5 stars audio
Originally posted at FanLit (come visit us!)

“The thing’s hollow — it goes on forever — and — oh my God — it’s full of stars!”

2001: A Space Odyssey is the novel that Arthur C. Clarke wrote so that Stanley Kubrick could develop it into the now-famous movie. It’s partly based on two of Clarke’s short stories: “Encounter in the Dawn” (1953) and “The Sentinel” (1948). The first story tells of a technologically advanced race that visited Earth millions of years ago, discovered early humans, and gave them some technological jumpstarts (and “one small step toward humanity.”) In the second story, humans have finally reached the moon. Much to their excitement and consternation, they discover an ancient alien artifact that may be an alarm to alert aliens when humans manage to get themselves off their little planet.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know that we see these plotlines unfold and connect in 2001: A Space Odyssey. A related plot involves a spaceship traveling to Saturn that’s controlled by a new self-conscious computer named HAL 9000. Perhaps the most famous scenes in the movie (and I think these are some of the best scenes in the book, too) occur when HAL decides to override the astronauts’ commands because of his own interpretation of his original instructions (this reason is not explained in the movie). These scenes are probably even more frightening today than they were back in 1968. Clarke perfectly captures our fear that the artificial intelligences we create may become smarter than we are and, therefore, out of our control.

I can’t resist Arthur C. Clarke’s visions and I have enjoyed everything I’ve read by him. It’s exciting and awe-inspiring to read his speculations about creation, the mysteries of space and time, extraterrestrials, artificial intelligence, the freeing of the spirit from the body, the existence and nature of God, and what’s “behind the back of space.” I also enjoy his theoretical arguments about the speed of light, physics, relativity, wormholes, etc. Clarke’s awe of space and his expectation that humans will conquer it is infectious and thrilling. At the same time, the possibility that we, who thought we were alone, may not be, is both exciting and disturbing. Clarke writes beautifully of both the potential glories and horrors of space.

I listened to Dick Hill narrate Brilliance Audio’s version of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Dick Hill narrates a lot of old science fiction and here he is as wonderful as he always is. His voice for HAL was so creepy it gave me chills (“Hey, Dave… what are you doing?”). The audiobook begins with an interesting talk by Arthur C. Clarke in which he gives us some context and background for the story, talks a bit about his writing process and collaboration with Stanley Kubrick, and mentions some of the pop culture that the book and movie have spawned. Three sequels to 2001: A Space Odyssey continue the story and address some of the questions that Clarke leaves us with. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
This book was written in conjunction with the Stanley Kubrick movie, it's been years since I've seen the movie and I probably should revisit it soon. I liked the book much better than the movie -- mostly because I found it MUCH easier to tell what the hell was going on. Instead of a bunch of monkeys staring at a monolith the book explains WHY.

Decent story, I'd say it was worth a read. ( )
  steadfastreader | Mar 18, 2014 |
A journey deep into space, it's meaning shrouded in secrecy. Five men, three of which are frozen in hibernation, and HAL 9000, the artificial intelligence, all on board the Discovery I, on it’s maiden voyage to Saturn. But only when the worst situation comes to life, is captain Dave Bowman told of his true purpose for his presence in space.
2001: A Space Odyssey was a magnificent trip through time and space. The millenniums it spans is great and very unique. It's prolific message sends shivers down the spine. The anticipation for what will lie on the next page is nearly unbearable. However, it has a bit of a slow and confusing start. It takes a couple rereads to understand what is happening, and then it shoots the reader hundreds of thousands of years into the future. Furthermore, it can slow down a bit, but it rebounds from those few scenes.
2001’s message carries through the hole book, until the last page. It’s chronicling of the human experience, not as one, but as a whole. All of humanity is represented in Arthur C. Clarke’s masterpiece of science fiction. Plus, it’s meaning is really for the reader to decide. What does it mean? It’s all up to you. There is no right answer, the book is how the reader sees it. No matter the interpretation, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a magnificent adventure of literature, and deserves it’s reputation as the ultimate trip.
  br14besj | Dec 19, 2013 |
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To Stanley
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The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended. Here on the Equator, in the continent which would one day be known as Africa, the battle for existence had reached a new climax of ferocity, and the victor was not yet in sight.
Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living. (Foreword)
"I'm not going to do that, Dave."
Look Dave, I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.
Now they were lords of the galaxy, and beyond the reach of time. They could rove at will among the stars, and sink like a subtle mist through the very interstices of space. But despite their godlike powers, they had not wholly forgotten their origin, in a worm slime of a vanished sea.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0451457994, Mass Market Paperback)

When an enigmatic monolith is found buried on the moon, scientists are amazed to discover that it's at least 3 million years old. Even more amazing, after it's unearthed the artifact releases a powerful signal aimed at Saturn. What sort of alarm has been triggered? To find out, a manned spacecraft, the Discovery, is sent to investigate. Its crew is highly trained--the best--and they are assisted by a self-aware computer, the ultra-capable HAL 9000. But HAL's programming has been patterned after the human mind a little too well. He is capable of guilt, neurosis, even murder, and he controls every single one of Discovery's components. The crew must overthrow this digital psychotic if they hope to make their rendezvous with the entities that are responsible not just for the monolith, but maybe even for human civilization.

Clarke wrote this novel while Stanley Kubrick created the film, the two collaborating on both projects. The novel is much more detailed and intimate, and definitely easier to comprehend. Even though history has disproved its "predictions," it's still loaded with exciting and awe-inspiring science fiction. --Brooks Peck

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:03 -0400)

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A special new Introduction by the author highlights this reissue of a classic science fiction novel that changed the way people looked at the stars--and themselves. 2001: A Space Odyssey is the classic science fiction novel that changed the way we looked at the stars and ourselves. 2001: A Space Odyssey inspired what is perhaps the greatest science fiction film ever made--brilliantly imagined by the late Stanley Kubrick ... 2001 is finally here.… (more)

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