Thursday, April 19, 2007

"2061 Odyssey Three" (novel): Good thriller

This is the second of 3 sequels to "2001 A Space Odyssey".

While this shipwreck & rescue thriller pretty much gives away suspense at the very beginning (if you have read 2010), it is still generally a good read.

Also, this is generally a better book compared to first sequel - 2010. Fewer ghosts, no gods, few descriptions of wonderful alien creatures; and they don't last long. This is mostly a human story. There are some pages copied verbatim from 2010, but they are easy to ignore.

This book differs from earlier two in another respect also. It is a single story, rather than 4 different stories strung together.

While all the action happens in space, there are three parties on earth that play a role - but in background.

  • A Chinese (or is he from Hong Kong? I forget) business tycoon (good guy). He runs an interplanetary shuttle service; two of his ships are involved in most of action.
  • South African mafia (bad guys).
  • A brilliant physicist (or is it chemist?). I forget his name.
There are two main theaters of action - Halley's Comet, & Europa (a moon of Jupiter-that has-become-a-sun named Lucifer). There is also some subsidiary action on Ganymede, another Jupiter moon. And preliminaries on earth.

Story summary (spoiler).
Action begins when the book is about a quarter through - a pleasure cum research voyage to Halley's Comet that is currently passing through inner solar system. A lot of pages on landing there, local scenery, features, etc.

Something has been cooking on Ganymede. Someone has seen a new feature on Europa with interesting characteristics. And wants to verify. Permission is quickly obtained from powers-that-matter on earth to throw a geological probe.

Since Europa is off bounds to humanity, according to Gods' dictate in previous book, a somewhat elaborate hoax is prepared for this voyage. After some adventures, there is a hijacking & an accident, & our friends land on Europa. Miraculously, powers protecting Europa don't mind.

Rest is the story of their rescue by the other ship at Halley's, & the wonderful sights the shipwrecked see on Europa.

End is ominous, with ample scope for next sequel.
  • Lucifer dies. What will now happen to the newly lit worlds made possible by converting Jupiter into a sun?
  • A new monster (TMA-4?) is introduced in New York City. And death of Lucifer has woken it up.
  • A new ghost is created, without the man dying, by the two ghosts of previous book. As a kind of simulation. So we now have 3 ghosts to contend with - in next book.
Good luck.

PS: Sounds like is a discrepancy here. 2010 says there are Europans at the level of development of human cavemen in 22,000 AD. At that time, Lucifer is still shining. How come it burned out in this book? I wonder if I missed something out.

Fact sheet.
2061 Odyssey Three, novel, review
Author: Arthur C Clarke
Genre: Science fiction
First published: 1987
Rating: B
See also: "Space Odyssey series summary", "Influences" section of "Rescue Party"

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