Top positive review
2 of 2 people found this helpful
A shame it had to end...
on 15 January 2015
Arthur C. Clarke – the ne plus ultra of SF, alongside Isaac Asimov – writes about infinity and eternity with a brevity that is simply awesome. Not for him longeurs needlessly swelling his books to, say, Peter F. Hamilton’s Brobdingnagian proportions, oh no. You get a two sentence reflection on what it must feel like to sit waiting for eternity for nothing to happen, and those sentences sink like stones to the heart of you and stay there for a long time.
This is what 2001 gets right – a sense of scale dwarfing the series of acutely tiny personal stories set in unimaginable vastness that feels described down to the dust in its corners. The passage of time, too – though jumping some three million years ahead between parts one and two – and the sense of age and majesty this invokes floats effortlessly behind everything you read; the gap is important, and the significance it is underlining is never overdone. What it gets wrong is that something like this needs an end, and compressing all that vastness back down towards a finishing point proves possibly too grand a task for even Clarke’s awesome abilities. I like to think it’s due to Kubrick’s influence but, whatever the reason, the ending is just weird and doesn’t feel at all Clarkeian to me.
If you’ve come to this after the movie, unsure if it will be your kind of thing, here’s a test: read chapter 7 (Special Flight). That casual technical speculation sprinkled with a mixture of scientific awesomeness and indistinguishable complete invention? That’s Arthur C. Clarke right there. Seriously, there’s a sentence in The Hammer of God that completely changed the way I think about gravity (I appreciate this might make me sound like an idiot...I can live with that). If chapter 7 reads like your kind of thing, welcome aboard; if not, give Clarke a wide berth, his myriad wonders aren’t for you.