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Let down by poor characterisation
on 11 February 2009
Nine years on and the latest mission is to find out what happened to David Bowman and Discovery - and the monolith, which is still floating above Jupiter (the book is more a sequel to the film than the original novel). It's told in Arthur Clarke's usual rather flat style, with short, bite-sized chapters, with interesting speculations along the way.
There are some wonderful descriptions of Jupiter and its moons, and the mystical flavour of the original isn't forgotten. But where 2001 had just two main characters, Bowman and Poole - with the ominous presence of the HAL 9000 computer in the background - the sequel suffers from too many. Much of the action is described from the viewpoint of Heywood Floyd, who was in the original, but the other members of the crew become mere cyphers, whose conversations are used to explain the plot. Dr Chandra, HAL's inventor and mentor, is interesting, but the others have little life to them.
Characterisation isn't that important in a Clarke novel, and as sequels go this one's an interesting read. It could never match its illustrious predecessor anyway. Well worth reading, but don't expect a classic.