Book Review 2010 Oddyssy TwoArthur C. Clarke
Granada Publishing Ltd.

And because, in all the Galaxy, they had found nothing more precious than Mind, they encouraged its dawning everywhere. They became farmers in the fields of stars; they sowed, and sometimes they reaped. And sometimes, dispassionately, they had to weed.

Nine years after the disastrous Discovery mission to Jupiter in 2001, a joint U.S.-Soviet expedition sets out to rendezvous with the derelict spacecraft–to search the memory banks of the mutinous computer HAL 9000 for clues to what went wrong…and what became of Commander Dave Bowman. Without warning, a Chinese expedition targets the same objective, turning the recovery mission into a frenzied race for the precious information Discovery may hold about the enigmatic monolith that orbits Jupiter. Meanwhile, the being that was once Dave Bowman–the only human to unlock the mystery of the monolith–streaks toward Earth on a vital mission of its own…

The second book in what was to become the Space Odyssey series, this one finally being published in 1982, a good fourteen years after the original novel was published. This time around, it was written independently of any kind of film being made in conjunction, like with 2001: A Space Odyssey. 2010 was eventually made into a film a couple of years later, however; for all intents and purposes, Clarke wrote 2010: Odyssey Two as a stand-alone sequel to Kubrick’s original movie. If that last part seems confusing, it actually makes sense if you check out the reasoning behind it. Anyway, the book…

The story takes up nine years after the failed mission to Saturn Jupiter to check out the mysterious Monolith. A joint venture by America and Soviet Russia* head out to Jupiter’s orbit to investigate both the Monolith and the derelict Discovery One to see what may have gone wrong, and also account for the whereabouts of David Bowman from the previous book. And in case you were out of the loop, Boman isn’t dead, he just got upgraded to a higher-level intelligence that’s floating around and helping the aliens responsible for the Monolith out with some evolution upgrades to the critters on the moon Europa. Which is why it’s been deemed OFF LIMITS to the humans on Earth…which didn’t stop China from launching an exploration of the place. The Chinese Europa landing ends in disaster (think Mutant Kelp Monster), the Soviet spaceship Alexei Leonov arrives with American scientist Heywood Floyd from the first novel, and the creator of the HAL computer decides to switch the HAL 9000 to figure out why the AI flipped out and tried to kill everyone. Yeah, always a good idea, there. The Monolith then goes back to Stargate Mode, and chucks out David Bowman…who appears to Floyd to tell him to get everyone away from Jupiter in 15 days. Something big is going down, it seems. It takes a bit to convince the others on board that a space ghost of his missing colleague gave him that warning, but after the Monolith disappears and a growing black spot consisting of a bunch of self-replicating Monoliths start growing over the gaseous surface of Jupiter, they decided to listen to crazy American, and manage to get out of the way before Jupiter turned into a mini star. Oh, and HAL gets absolved for his murderous spree and gets absorbed into the Monolith along with Bowman. Then we’re given a glimpse of life on the moon Europa several thousands of years in the future. The end.

Having never watched the movie adaptation of this book (bits and pieces, actually…I would come across a scene or two while flipping through channels on the telly and spend two minutes trying to sus things out before moving on), nevertheless I do recall having a friend trying to describe this book to me in middle school, basically stating that Clarke wrote 2010 to make sense of 2001. Decades later, I’m still hard pressed to find any evidence that this was the case; however, the novel does go a bit deeper into the origin of the Monoliths, as well as what’s been going on with Bowman, and does explain why HAL went the cold, mechanical equivalent of psycho on the original trip.

Overall, as a continuation of the story started in 2001, 2010 was an interesting tale, if not a bit dry at parts. Clarke does come from the old school of Science Fiction writing, going into a lot of detail about the workings of certain science theories at work. There’s a few moments of tenseness, and there’s that overall metaphysical sheen that comes with advanced science that the humans encounter. It’s very much worth reading, yes; just don’t go in expecting space opera.

[* = keep in mind, this was written when the Cold War was still going on; if it helps, think of this as an “alternate universe”…because Clarke certainly did]