Monday, May 4, 2009

Book Review: Rendezvous With Rama

Two weekends ago, I read Arthur C. Clarke's science fiction classic 'Rendezvous With Rama'. 

It was well-written and easy to read, with decent characters, plot, and action.  It accomplished the very rare feat of being a well-paced novel-length description of exploration, adventure, and problem-solving, without any violence or direct conflict.  I can see why it became a classic, and I am glad I read it.

But it, like most Clarke stories, fits solidly in the theme of 'mysterious and really powerful aliens with unknowable motives'.  I don't really like that sub-field of sci-fi.  I know it's just a personal preference, but it is not what I want in my stories.  I like my sci-fi to be about human progress and overcoming challenges, pulling ourselves up to a better type of existence and/or solving problems with science, bravery, and ingenuity.  But none of that happens in this book.  Sure, a lot of people do a lot of clever things, but it is all in an artificial environment.  It was closer to archaeology than physics.  Nothing has changed at the end of the book, except that a few guys have some semi-religious mystical experiences.

The book reminded me more of an H.P. Lovecraft work than a work of classic science fiction.  That's not a bad thing, but it was not what I was expecting.  And I was slightly annoyed with the assumption about the fragility of the human mind.  It was repeatedly stated that experienced astronauts might be driven to madness by the unusual directions and perspectives of what they were encountering.  That's just hogwash in my opinion.

Still, it is good to expand one's horizons.  Clarke is a top-notch sci-fi author, and it was, overall, a fun read.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

true, there are no great problems solved... but many questions are raised. (I wonder if Clarke answers some of those in his sequels...) People would be asking those questions for a long time.

Yes, more like archaeology than physics, isn't it? Hey, It took years for all the mysteries found in Tut's tomb to be catalogued, but the contributions to understanding of history/egyptology were immeasurable, and in the meantime, people were riveted to the museums and any news about Tut. Possibilities can be just as inspiring as answers. :) Glad you enjoyed it overall.