2061: Odyssey Three, by Arthur C. Clarke

2061Tsung agrees to take me to Halley and back, give me food, water, air, and a room with a view.
And in return?
When I get back I’ll do my best to promote future voyages, make some video appearances, write a few articles-all very reasonable, for the chance of a lifetime.  Oh yes-I’ll also entertain my fellow passengers-and vice versa.
How?  Song and dance?
Well, I hope to inflict selected portions of my memoirs on a captive audience.
-Heywood Floyd and friend

The third book of Clarke’s Odyssey series is a very different one than the previous two.  While the first two were mostly mysteries of the universe (or at least the solar system), 2063‘s element of mystery is really centered on the actions of humanity.  While there is the element of the ever-enigmatic monolith, it doesn’t have as great a role in this novel as the other books.

The book opens with Heywood Floyd getting ready to hop on the passenger spaceship Universe-one of the first of its kind.  Its goal is to land on Halley’s Comet, finally making its return after its decades-long orbit.  Heywood’s getting pretty old-after all, he’s been around since the original novel-but he’s had some help by medical technology and an unforeseen side effect of hibernation on his trip in the last book.

However, the trip gets interrupted when the sister ship of the Universe crashes in what may be the worst possible place in the solar system-and among the crew is Heywood’s grandson, Chris.  The reasons for that crash involve secrets kept by a passenger, and believe me, it’s a whopper.

As far as plot goes, this is a pretty simple one.  What makes this book a good read is the events that surround all of this.  While once again, some of the events in the book have been completely invalidated by time (I’m sure I would have noticed if long distance rates were abolished on 12/1/2000), it does have a marvelous look at how humanity may change in the not-too-distant future.  There’s a great deal of geopolitical changes, as well as the indication that humanity might actually put aside war (for the most part), and mankind’s resources are primarily channeled to the exploration of space, and rebuilding the damage done to Earth.

Clarke continues to impress me with his descriptions of a future that could be.  Even though the timing is off, especially as seen by today’s eyes, almost everything described in the book felt to me like they could happen.  This is a far more believable variety of science fiction than many other books I review, and while I can’t say that any sort of science fiction is better than another, I have to say that this style very much appealed to me.  Who wouldn’t want to see humanity working towards better things than killing each other off?  Of course, the crash does highlight the fact that there are some elements of humanity that still see violence as a nice way to achieve its goals….

To be honest, I much preferred the exploration of Halley’s Comet to the later events of the book-although I’m not taking away anything from the events of the crash and afterwards.  The big secret, as I said, is a biggie, and explains a great deal of the activity following the crash.  And of course, because this a book in the Odyssey series, it wouldn’t be complete without some input by the being once known as David Bowman.

2063 had the advantage of being completely Clarke’s own-no movie screenplay based on it, or vice versa.  It stands well on its own, though.  To anyone who prefers their sci-fi without the lasers and spaceship battles, and more on the human achievement-this one’s for you.  You won’t be disappointed.

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