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4.6 out of 5 stars
2001: A Space Odyssey
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2001
An incredible, beautiful, awe-inspiring book that has had a considerable impact on my life. The prose is excellent, but the thing that makes this book so brilliant is it's scope.
It is also based on _real_ science without being overly technical. For example, in both the book and the movie the "Dawn of Man" (or Primeval Night) part demonstrates memetics eight years before Dawkins published The Selfish Gene. We see how one meme allowed man to develop.
That's all that I can say without spoiling the book, but it is amazing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 28 December 2010
To think that this book was written over forty years ago, and yet the author has achieved a high success rate with his detailed predictions for the immediate future. This is a highly imaginative, superb story, one which really makes you think about our role in the universe. To be read again ...... and again.

And what a great idea (especially in 1968) for the spaceship's computer Hal to have a nervous breakdown!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 August 2011
Where do I start? Yes this is without doubt a masterpiece. Every page a thought provoking wonder. Yes the movie is a superb moment in film history but this book is in my view even better. If only the movie had stuck more closely to the novel then I feel many people would have not felt so baffled. A wonderous work
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 23 November 1999
The basic premise of the book is an absolute blinder and it doesn't stop there. The ideas are way before their time and the situations encountered, by both the characters and the reader, are fantastic. Things do get a tad strange towards the end of the book but I found it compelling, couldn't put it down!!
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on 3 July 2014
Summer is here and that can only mean one thing; a lazy day in the garden reading my book. Science Fiction is not always the best genre for doing this, the tomes can he heavy both physically and psychologically. With the impish and trippy ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ by Arthur C Clarke, you may think this would be the case, but it is actually a very approachable book that is easy to read. So easy in fact that I completed it in one sitting.

Written in parallel with the filming of Kubrick’s movie, it shares the same DNA as the film, but with some minor changes. It follows man’s journey to the stars from the cave all the way to beyond our understanding. Rather than coming in at 1000 pages and reflecting on every moment of man’s past and future, Clarke concentrates on a few key moments. The best are the cave men coming across a strange obelisk that opens their minds and the famous Hal section in space.

‘2001’ is extremely well written. It has some high minded concepts, but Clarke never loses the reader. The science is explained in a way that is approachable without being patronising and he continues to move the narrative forwards throughout. There are certainly small issues with the book; the vignette feel of the stories give it a disjointed feel and the end is a little too trippy even for me. However, read the book as a collection of connected short stories and you have a fun and extremely interesting science fiction book that will appeal to fans of the genre, but is also accessible to those who are not.
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In many ways this is an extremely important book. It was written at the same time as the screenplay for the film was being produced, but both Arthur C Clarke and Stanley Kubrick were clear that it was a completely different - if linked - entity. Agreement was reached between them that Clarke could adapt the storyline in ways which made more sense as a novel, so it is definitely not a 'novelisation' of the film, nor is the film based on the novel!

I read the novel first and then saw the film. It certainly helped to have read the novel when trying to deconstruct the film, which is now available at a very reasonable price as a marvellous Blu-Ray disc 2001 - A Space Odyssey [Blu-ray] [1968]. There are, however, many differences between the book and the film and they should be treated separately.

The novel, like many science fiction stories, is very much of its time. When it was written, the year 2001 was still over 3 decades in the future, and it is now nearly a decade in the past. Some of the predictions about life in the early 21st century now look quite quaint, whilst others are wildly over-optimistic, especially the state of space travel including shuttle, space station, moonbase and interplanetary travel. Nevertheless, the story is an epic one which encompasses the evolution of mankind from ape to superman through the influence of another race of beings. Clarke can often be seen as being rather 'cold' and better at describing the technology than the feelings of the humans involved, but he becomes very involved with the story, to the extent that HAL 9000 is almost more human than the humans. The plight of Dave Bowman is also dealt with in much more detail than would have been possible in the film.

Whilst no longer ground-breaking SF writing, this is still an enjoyable read and should be seen as an important part of the wider 2001 story, along with The Lost Worlds of 2001 which outlines the development of the story - and the screenplay - and The Making of Kubrick's 2001 which is the best contemporary account of the making of the film.
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on 6 June 2014
I have read this book in the past in paperback but on seeing this book, and its three sequels, available on the Kindle, I decided to go ahead and buy all four. This has to be one of the best books, and indeed best movies, I have ever read/seen. Arthur C Clarke is best known for his science fiction novels and they are all vary interesting yet easy to read; he doesn’t bog us down with meaningless scientific description and jargon but writes in such an easy style that even non-intellectual people like me can read his novels easily. It tells of the story of early mankind’s development when an extra-terrestrial superior intelligence gives the early man-apes a bit of a much needed boost by using a large crystal slab that suddenly appears on day outside a man-ape tribe’s cave. Another of these slabs is hidden on the moon and acts as a kind of alarm clock telling its creators that these man-apes have developed to such a level that they have reached the moon. The story then tells of man’s attempts to locate the source of this intelligent life.

The book is close to the film except one major thing; in the book Japetus, a moon of the planet Saturn, is the destination whereas in the film the destination is Jupiter.

An enjoyable and easy to read book that I finished in two days. Recommended.

A note on the Kindle version; no proplems at all.
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on 30 May 2012
I've found Arthur C. Clarke to be occasionally long-winded and overly techy at times, not so in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's a novel that is so beautifully refined and free from filler that I was amazed it was Clarke I was reading.

The story is one of intervention. It's a history of the birth of mankind, and a prediction of where we may yet end up. I can't say much more than that as it will spoil key events in the narrative; events that act as a catalyst for the most significant change.

Written by Clarke at the same time as he collaborated on the film script for the Stanley Kubrick feature 2001: A Space Odyssey [1968] [DVD], the prose both complements and occasionally deviates from the story presented in the film. Neither one is the gospel text; they both have a part to play. Interestingly, what I consider to be the most powerful scene in the film feels hurried and less emotional here. Conversely, the "monkey bit" in the film that elicits laughs from naysayers is a thing of beauty here. Kubrick creates the world and presents impersonal protagonists to inhabit it. Clarke creates more rounded characters but places them in a world that is in a state of constant flux. To fully understand the themes of 2001, it's important to assimilate both film and novel.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Arthur C. Clarke's monumental novel 2001: A Space Odyssey is top-notch science fiction that more than earns its spot among the greatest works published in the genre. Reading the novel is quite a different experience from watching Stanley Kubrick's wildly famous movie adaptation of the story. The movie is far too abstract and vague for my tastes, concentrating more on visual wonders than sound plot development. Many of the questions left unanswered in the movie (along with some questions and answers the movie never even addressed) can be found in the novel, and this made for a much more rewarding and satisfying 2001 experience for me. Moviegoers had to wait sixteen years to learn the real story of Hal's failure, but Clarke explains it (and in more detail) in the pages of his original 2001 novel. There are actually a surprising number of differences between the novel and the film, which strikes me as somewhat strange given the fact that the book was inspired by the idea of the film; as a matter of fact, much of the writing took place during the film's production, and Clarke has said that some movie shots led him to make changes to the novel as he was writing it.
The story begins in the ancient past, providing much more detail about the appearance of a huge black monolith on earth and its deliberative interference with the man-apes of the area. The film fails to convey the overwhelming impact of the alien monolith on the evolution of life on earth, and that is one important reason why I find the film too vague. The events of Clarke's first few chapters are of great importance in one's understanding of the story, and all the facts become clear in this book. One will also find some major differences between the novel and the movie in terms of the setting of the final events. In the novel, the crucial mission goes to Saturn, whereas the movie takes us no farther than Jupiter; this doesn't change anything really, but Clarke has said that Kubrick made the right decision and saved him some embarrassment from making a visual representation of Saturn that later failed to hold up to more recent scientific discoveries about the ringed planet.
Many of the crucial events onboard the Saturn-bound spaceship Discovery also differ significantly between book and movie. Clarke's exposition of the growing doubts expressed by Captains Poole and Bowman over the performance of the onboard supercomputer Hal works much better than Kubrick's lip reading explication, and there is a lot more information provided here about the whys and wherefores of Hal's troubling and duplicitous actions. The pivotal events of Hal's takeover of the ship play much better in the book as well, and the events as described here are actually much more exciting and convincing than the events you see in the film. The novel concludes with a much more revealing look at Bowman's journey beyond Saturn into infinity. Here, Clarke even goes into some detail about the creators of the monoliths, which is a topic the movie never really addresses at all.
In the end, the novel is just much more compelling than the film, and for that reason I would recommend watching the movie before reading the book. Kubrick intentionally left his film rather vague and open-ended, and a reading of the much more compelling and informative novel may well rob you of whatever small joys you might otherwise find in the film. In the same vein, the paucity of answers in the movie does little to detract from one's enjoyment of and fascination with the novel.
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