3001: The Final Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

3001-the-final-odyssey-by-arthur-c-clarkeGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine
Published: 1996
Reviewer Rating: threehalfstars
Book Review by Paul S. Jenkins

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For those of us who consider Arthur C. Clarke to be the quintessential science fiction writer, any work of SF written by the man himself – without collaboration – is eagerly awaited. His naming as a Knight Bachelor in the UK New Year’s honors list comes as deserved recognition. Clarke’s original work, however, is these days thin on the ground. His recent novels, not counting collaborations, have been short, and several have been derivative of his earlier works. For example, the ‘braincap’ of 3001 can be found in Hammer of God, and the space elevator – where the protagonist of 3001 begins his story – was the central idea behind The Fountains of Paradise.

3001 is the fourth book in the series which began with the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which Clarke co-scripted with Stanley Kubrick. Clarke wrote the first book at the time the film was being made, following it over the years with 2010: Odyssey Two and 2061: Odyssey Three.

3001 is more a forum for the expounding of Clarke’s ideas about the future, rather than a conventional story with a beginning, middle and end. If you can accept that, it’s a good read. Clarke has lost little of his former style and craft, and his prose still captivates. Being of the old school, he writes with a permanent ‘sense of wonder’ at the futuristic vision he’s portraying. Many SF writers make predictions about the future – Clarke’s predictions have a habit of coming true.

The central premise of 3001 is that Frank Poole, murdered by the computer HAL outside the ship Discovery in 2001: A Space Odyssey, has been rescued just as his frozen body was about to leave the solar system. Medical advances at the beginning of the fourth millennium have enabled doctors to revive the cryopreserved astronaut, and he acts as our guide to the wonders of the future. It’s a very old literary device, and Clarke nods to Heinlein’s use of the technique in a chapter entitled “Stranger in a Strange Time”.

Frank Poole eventually confronts the awesome monolith – a larger version of the one on the Moon – on Jupiter’s satellite Europa. He renews an old friendship, and ties up several loose ends of the saga. It’s a definite end to the series, but Clarke said the same about his previous sequels. He recently celebrated his 80th birthday, and could justifiably hang up his word-processor. But I wonder if 3001 really is Sir Arthur’s final Odyssey.

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