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Rama II by Arthur C. Clarke

Rama II (1989)

by Arthur C. Clarke, Gentry Lee

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Rama Universe (2)

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Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Wonderful! Characterizations were great and the story left you wanting more!!! ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 22, 2014 |
This is a better written novel than the first one and has a better cast of characters. The Earth system revealed here has more flaws and we do get a cliff-hanger ending. I think the addition of Gentry Lee to the team was for the better. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Sep 17, 2013 |
What a pile of crap! Gentry Lee took over what was an amazing hardcore science fiction novel in Rama and turned it into some crappy drama, with novice style intrigue, a bunch of ridiculous characters that having you going from indifferent to totally hating them. This is a afternoon soap opera with the background of space. I loved Rama, I loved the ideas brought up by Arthur Clarke, and I was so excited to learn more about the Ramans and their ship that the second encounter should have brought, instead I learned about a bunch of pathetic characters that have a ton of personal problems, the chicks are sluts, and the dudes are retarded. This was one of the worst piles of refuse I have ever struggled through and it makes it all the more painful because I loved Rama so much. DO NOT READ THIS BOOK!!! It will destroy the good memories of the novel actually written by Clarke! ( )
  blanchvegas | Feb 10, 2013 |
Sequel to the now classic Rendezvous with Rama.... well, Rama II in my opinion is not a bad book but never'll be a classic like its predecessor. There's too little originality and uniqueness in it to be. The story itself is far away from bad, it's an interesting and exciting saga of a new expedition to the Rama II ship which seems to show a little more interest in the direction of humans and Earth.... ( )
  TheCrow2 | Aug 4, 2011 |
Arthur C. Clarke
Gentry Lee

Rama II

Bantam, Paperback, 1990.

12mo. ix+466 pp. Foreword Rama Revisited by Arthur Clarke [v-ix].

First published, 1989.


Alas, it is true. I had read tons of negative reviews but somehow I didn't believe the book could be that bad. Well, it isn't. It's worse. Much worse!

Let me say it bluntly in two short sentences. Rama II is no science fiction. It's an ordinary pulp fiction.

The most probable reason for this monstrous incongruity is that, very much unlike its legendary predecessor, this book was not written by Arthur Clarke at all. I know this is a very serious accusation, but I am going to back it up. Having previously read no fewer than seven novels by Arthur Clarke, published in the course of more than four decades, I do claim, perhaps presumptuously, that I know something about his writing style. To be sure, there may be certain immaturity in Childhood's End (1953) or some dull pages in 3001: The Final Odyssey (1997), but on the whole Clarke's writing is remarkably consistent in terms of both style and content, the combination reaching its absolute peak in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Rendezvous with Rama (1973). It is not for nothing that Rama II is twice longer than the latter. The style is as overloaded with insignificant trivia and irrelevant digressions - from tedious descriptions of surroundings and electronic displays to page after page of memories and reveries - and as long-winded, clumsy, dry and tedious as Clarke's has never been. What is infinitely worse, the scientific part and the philosophical depth have been almost entirely dispensed with. And for what? Petty rivalries and even pettier jealousies, shady deals, nasty intrigues: all the stuff that makes for a perfect space version of The Bold and the Beautiful. I have yet to read a book by Arthur Clarke in which he neglects the individual and social impact of the events he describes. But I have never read one in which this is at the expense of ideas and depth. Well, this is precisely the case here.

In his preface Arthur Clarke declares his own surprise that he has agreed to collaboration with another author on a work of fiction, but he makes a poor case when he tries to explain why he did so. He is evasive about who did most of the writing, but I would venture an informed guess about that. Apart from very occasional couple of sentences or a short paragraph, I am perfectly convinced that Arthur Clarke wrote nothing of this book. Nor do I think he contributed many ideas to it. In short, neither in terms of content nor in terms of style has Rama II anything to do Rendezvous with Rama, or any other novel by Arthur Clarke I have read. Further in this review, therefore, I will refer to Rama II as solely written by Gentry Lee.

To say that the mind-bending, mind-boggling and mind-blowing mystery and grandeur of the first book is entirely missing from its sequel is a gross understatement. It takes some hundred pages or so for the first encounter with Rama II to happen at all. And when it finally does happen, you are given - a party with a lot of drinking, murder out of the blue and a highly ''dramatic'' termination of unwanted pregnancy. Further during the exploration of the second alien ship the human race has come into contact with you have several gruesome deaths more, trivial medical problems, crew meetings full of inane ramblings, teenage-like flirtations, hunting of biots (biorobots that is), blackmail, sexism (or feminism, to be exact; in either case: don't you know this is totally obsolete nowadays, Gentry?), and a good deal of media hype. Yes, that's right: the most important thing about the exploration of Rama II is the live coverage that causes mass hysteria on Earth and the pretty face of Francesca Sabatini, a world famous journalist that just happens to be one of the main characters. Only in the second half of the novel are there a few hints of something significantly new inside Rama, unknown from the first book, but it is as pedestrian and laboriously written as anything else. As far as breath-taking descriptions, provocative ideas and philosophical speculation are concerned, Rama II is just about on the level of The Da Vinci Code. Only it is much less entertaining and, since it is supposed to be a sequel to a classic, it promises to be a lot more than mere entertainment. It delivers nothing but excruciating tediousness.

I hope Clarke detractors who constantly complain about the lack of characterisation in his books would be satisfied with Rama II. There is hardly anything else here. Ironically enough, for all of Gentry's prolixity, the major characters here, though fairly well-drawn, are entirely one-dimensional. David Brown is a presumptuous, dishonest, temperamental and narrow-minded prima donna (the right make-up for an eminent scientist indeed!), Francesca Sabatini is unscrupulous, promiscuous, self-absorbed and vindictive (an epic bitch if there ever was one), Nicole des Jardins is honest, sentimental, saintly and straightforward (an epic saint if there ever was one, and just as dull as her nemesis), General O’Toole is an entirely conventional, yet thoroughly unconvincingly drawn, religious devotee (another obsolete concept, Gentry; and vastly inferior result to Boris Rodrigo, the devotee in the first book), Richard Wakefield is an amazing but anti-social computer geek whose greatest passion is making mini-robots that recite his beloved Shakespeare (another opportunity for Gentry to digress and show off his wide knowledge in a vain attempt to compensate for his lack of specific scientific one, let alone imagination to use it): so they are in the beginning, so they remain until the end. At every possible opportunity, Gentry goes back and explores their pasts with intolerable passion for trivial and perfectly irrelevant episodes; these range from lots of African spiritualism and magical rituals all the way to paedophilia and rape. The novel is set seventy years after the encounter with the first Rama, during which mankind has suffered a massive crisis called The Great Chaos. Apparently Gentry thought this sufficient to show us that human race, far from gaining any wisdom at all, has actually gone quite a bit backwards.

Nor is the dialogue any better: trite, silly, stilted, artificial, seldom approaching anything like humour or drama. If that is possible, the dialogue only makes the characters even more artificial and unbelievable. Just about the most dramatic thing Gentry can think of is a most embarrassing conversation about the unknown father of Nicole's daughter. Jeez, Gentry, give me break, will you! Mankind - or any other kind for that matter - at the beginning of space exploration should know a lot better than that. As for the humour, one of the most painfully missing components, consider the following excerpt:

''It must be your blouse,'' General Borzov answered with a start. ''For just a moment I had the distinct impression that you were a tiger poised to pounce on a hapless antelope or gazelle. Maybe it's old age. Or my mind has started playing tricks on me.''

Imagine Arthur Clarke writing flirtatious junk like that!

To cut the long story short, the only remarkable thing in Rama II is Rama itself. The little new about its interior or its purpose is overwhelmingly trivial and incomparably inferior to anything in the first book. If it was not for the bold advertisement on the front cover as ''a sequel'', Rama II might have received one full star because of this slender value. But as continuation of Rendezvous with Rama, it really doesn't deserve even that.

(By the way, one funny coincidence. It so happened that in parallel with Rama II I have read also The Fountains of Paradise, first published in 1979 and one of Clarke's finest novels. What a contrast indeed! Comparisons, of course, are out of the question. You might just as well try to compare a country chapel with the Cologne cathedral.)

I might add that the problem, as it should be obvious by now, is not in the sequel per se. After all, there is a fine precedent in Clarke's bibliography: 2001: A Space Odyssey. None of the three sequels Clarke himself wrote is on par with the first book, which is in no need of any sequel for that matter, but they are all fine books, beautifully written and containing a great deal of provocative scientific concepts and philosophic ideas, and I certainly don't share the general negativity towards even the weakest member of the series (the last book). Rendezvous with Rama is just as self-sufficient and full of compelling mystique as 2001. Yet if Clarke had written the sequel himself, it might well have turned into something worthy. Alas, it was not to be. In the incompetent hands of Gentry Lee, and doubtless with considerable help of his trivial mind, it was turned into ridiculous and lurid soap opera.

So why did he do it? Why in the name of Rama did Arthur Clarke allow his name to appear on the cover of such junk? Was it for Gentry's sake? No; had he been so altruistically inclined, Clarke might have collaborated with him incognito and let him publish the book under his name only. Then again, a book with only Gentry's name on the cover would, needless to say, have had a tremendously diminished commercial potential. Was it for money and glory? Hardly. By the late 1980s Clarke was already in his seventies and widely recognised, together with Asimov and Heinlein, as one the greatest masters of the genre. At any rate, it is unfortunate and distressing that his name - in bigger font than Gentry's, even though the real proportion is very much the reverse one - should be on the cover of Rama II, as well as on so many other covers with so many other names. Scanning Clarke's bibliography in Wikipedia, one sees that the first collaboration with Gentry (in Cradle, 1988) was the beginning of what, judging by Rama II and a good many negative reviews of other books, was a sad end of a glorious career. Until the end of his life, Clarke's name appeared on the covers of 15 novels, but only two of them were written entirely by him: The Hammer of God (1993) and 3001: The Final Odyssey (1997). If his other collaborations with Gentry, or Steven Baxter, or whoever else happens to be his companion on the cover, are thrice as good as Rama II, they still would not be worth reading.

Until 1993 Arthur and Gentry produced altogether two sequels more: The Garden of Rama and Rama Revealed. It is perhaps significant that they grow conspicuously bigger: the former is more than 500 pages long, the latter more than 600. After the dismaying experience with the fabulously dismal Rama II, I don't think I will ever read its own sequels. So if you need a copy for free, just let me know. (Rama II is read but once, the other two are unread, all in very good to excellent condition. Shipping's at my expense.)

By way of conclusion, I will pay the greatest possible compliment to Rama II. I actually recommend this book to everybody who has read and loved Rendezvous with Rama. The sequel is so un-Clarke, nay it is indeed anti-Clarke, it is so ludicrously lurid, trivial and inept - that it's unintentionally hilarious. Of course if you prefer cheap space soap operas over serious science fiction, Rama II is the perfect book for you. And you are at perfect liberty to agree with The San Diego Tribune that it is indeed ''much better than Rendezvous with Rama''. For my part, when in the mood for some light escapist entertainment, I would much sooner read Dan Brown or Jackie Collins than anything by Gentry Lee. ( )
5 vote Waldstein | Aug 1, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (41 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Arthur C. Clarkeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lee, Gentrymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Aronica, Barbara CohenDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Swendsen, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The great radar pulse generator Excalibur, powered by nuclear explosions, had been out of service for almost half a century. It had been designed and developed in the frantic effort during the months following the transit of Rama through the solar system.
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Book description

Humanity has a second date with destiny...

Rendezvous with Rama is hailed not only as one of Arthur C. Clarke's all-time bestselling novels, but as one of the most popular classics of modern science-fiction. Published in 1973, it is the only sf novel ever to scoop all he major awards - five in the English language, including the Hugo, the Nebula and the British SF Award. It told of how, in the year 2130, a mysterious and apparently untenanted alien spaceship, Rama, entered our solar system. By the end of the novel, many wonders had been uncovered but few of its mysteries had been solved...

Now, the Ramans return - in an enthralling and long-awaited sequel as brilliantly imaginative as its predecessor. RAMA II is set in 2200, four years after a second approaching spacecraft has been detected. But this time Earth is ready...

And now, with the arrival of Rama II, some of the questions posed by Rama may at last be answered.

Arthur C. Clarke is one of the truly prophetic figures of the space age...The colossus of science fiction - New Yorker
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553286587, Mass Market Paperback)

Years ago, the enormous, enigmatic alien  spacecraft called Rama sailed through our solar system as  mind-boggling proof that life existed -- or  had existed -- elsewhere in the  universe. Now, at the dawn of the twenty-third century,  another ship is discovered hurtling toward us. A  crew of Earth's best and brightest minds is  assembled to rendezvous with the massive vessel. They  are armed with everything we know about Raman  technology and culture. But nothing can prepare them  for what they are about to encounter on board  Rama II: cosmic secrets that are  startling, sensational -- and perhaps even  deadly.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:26 -0400)

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In 2130, an alien spaceship, Rama, entered our solar system. The first product of an alien civilisation to be encountered by man, it revealed many wonders to mankind - but most of its mysteries remained unsolved...

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