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An odyssey at odds with its predecessors
on 18 January 2005
As the book's title suggests, this is an odyssey through time rather than space. The authors point out that their goal was to create a companion to 2001 and its sequels, starting out with a similar premise but developing things at 90 degrees, so to speak. They've succeeded, but they've also fallen short of the original.
Like 2001, the scope of this first book ranges from the dawn of man to a time when humans live on the moon. Yet Clarke's penchant for mysticism that was evident in 2001 or Childhood's End has given way to a more concrete treatment of peoples and practices. As a result, the book seems to have lost its heart. Without giving too much of the plot away, the use of some very famous historical characters seems painfully contrived. The writers seem to have recognised this, and characters within the novel speculate on the ludicrous coincidences involved. Maybe a reason for the contrivance wll become apparent in the following books, maybe not; talk about hedging your bets!
Despite the mysterious presence of the "Eyes" throughout the book, I found little or no sense of wonder in the world or events being described. There is a heavy concentration on military procedures, the impact of technology, and the geology of the planet - but this comes at the expense of the inner dialogue of the people affected by them. Considering that this isn't the first time Clarke and Baxter have written a book together (and I really enjoyed The Light of Other Days) I was surprised how little I was engaged by it.
Nevertheless, there are one or two references to the original work which fans should pick up, and the final chapter redeems things with an event worthy of Clarke's earlier work. Rather than disappointment, this left me hoping that, with the groundwork out of the way, book 2 in the series will be a much more exciting ride...