Having enjoyed the original Rama book I was keen to see how the ideas had been carried forward in this sequel. I couldn't be more disappointed. Rarely have I found a book so difficult to read through to the end, at some points it's as taxing as wading through knee-deep mud. I simply don't believe that Arthur C Clarke co-wrote this - I can barely even believe he read it before allowing his name to be appended to such drivel.
The first third of the book basically consists of a number of ill-conceived and poorly executed character sketches which amount to little more than standard Hollywood character types. Endless back stories for these characters are regurgitated in an attempt to make them interesting; this attempt fails utterly. The pace is so ponderous and barely refers to Rama at all.
In the second third the wondrous and mysterious thing that is Rama serves as backdrop for a misplaced and frankly pathetic murder mystery. It's not until the final third of the book that we see any real Rama action. Until this point the exploration of Rama has been put off for a number of implausible political and safety reasons, with the characters constantly taking naps, just to slow down the already slumbering pace of action.
There is no sense of wonder here, which the original book inspired. The worst aspect for me was that the story dripped with Christianity. God is constantly mentioned, visits to and video conferences with the Pope, prayers and baptisms. I had to skip some pages as they were sickening and actually found myself at a number of points saying out loud "oh for f&*% sake".
In conclusion, I wish I had heeded a friend's warning that Rama II wasn't a patch on the original. I think he was very kind in his assessment. One of the very worst books I have ever read, and if it wasn't for the hope it would expand on the original I simply wouldn't have bothered reading to the end. Unfortunately I purchased 'Garden of Rama' at the same time, and after checking I see it was also co-authored by Gentry Lee. I think I'll chuck it on the fire in case I'm ever tempted to read it.
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