Friday, December 18, 2009

Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (1972)

I recently read Rendezvous With Rama, winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, the two most prestigious awards given for speculative fiction. The Wikipedia article gives a good, brief synopsis of the plot:
Set in the 22nd century, the story involves a fifty-kilometer-long cylindrical alien starship that enters Earth's solar system. The story is told from the point of view of a group of human explorers, who intercept the ship in an attempt to unlock its mysteries.
The book is a very good read in terms of hard science fiction, i.e., the plot and the mystery are interesting, the predictions made are plausible, and the characters are of secondary importance. The writing is smooth, without any annoying quirks like you might find in some sci-fi writing, so the dialog and action blend together well and the characters, while mostly flat, are rarely confused with one another (except for a few disposable characters). The tension and sense of wonder are what drive the book, and Sir Arthur Charles Clarke definitely earned his reputation as one of the greats of 20th century science fiction. In addition, the chapters are short and easily digestible, so the book can be read as quickly or as slowly as you like.

This is my first book by Clarke, and I believe his writing is at least on par with, if not superior to, that of Isaac Asimov, one of my all-time favorite authors and the other author usually placed alongside Clarke in short lists.

My only complaint is that the ending should have provided more closure. I didn't think authors set up sequels in the early 1970's (except for planned trilogies and the like), and I certainly didn't think an author would do so and then fail to write the second one until 17 years later. However, this is a small quibble, as it wasn't an awful ending by any means. In all, I give the book 4 out of 5 stars. (To get 5, it would have to be better in terms of fiction generally, e.g., by having more compelling characters, rather than just being great on its own hard sci-fi terms.)

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