Book Review 3001 The Final OdyssyArthur C. Clarke
Del Rey
1997

Perhaps it is better to be un-sane and happy, than sane and un-happy. But it is the best of all to be sane and happy. Whether our descendants can achieve that goal will be the greatest challenge of the future. Indeed, it may well decide whether we have any future.

One thousand years after the Jupiter mission to explore the mysterious Monolith had been destroyed, after Dave Bowman was transformed into the Star Child, Frank Poole drifted in space, frozen and forgotten, leaving the supercomputer HAL inoperable. But now Poole has returned to life, awakening in a world far different from the one he left behind–and just as the Monolith may be stirring once again . . .

Here it is, the final book in the so-called Space Odyssey Series of books. I remember wandering into a Walden Books that was inside one of the malls in Omaha (this was back before Barnes & Noble forced the smaller book stores in the area to cease when it opened up nearby) and running into the display of this new publication, thinking, “huh…he wrote another one?” Followed immediately with, “wait, Clarke is still alive? Good for him.” And then wandering off to see if there was anything good in the Faith and Christianity section. This was the later part of the 1990s, you see. This was before I rekindled my love of horror and sci fi literature.

Regardless, 3001 The Final Odyssey was, if you recall from the previous reviews I’ve posted, included along with all of the other titles in the Space Odyssey series when I got them all in one shot from Half Price Books. Not a bad deal, considering the original cover prices for books that are, for the most part, less than three hundred pages in length, and contain a considerable amount of rehash from the other books. Anyway, on to the story plot…

After a bit covering the entities that created the Monoliths that started all this wackiness, the body of one Frank Poole–the ill-fated member of the original expedition to the Saturn Jupiter Monolith all the way back in 2001–is found frozen and meandering about in zero gravity around the Kuiper belt by a space tug in the year 3001. After being revived (because this is THE FUTURE! and all that), he is taken back to Earth, where he begins learning about the wondrous…wonders of THE FUTURE! he suddenly finds himself in. Also, he becomes something of a curiosity for the citizenry, and especially for the person assigned to be his guide through all that. I can imagine how amusing the whole “Back in my day…” spiel would be at this point. Meanwhile, it seems that the Jovian Monolith has received some orders from the Big Giant Monolith several light years away, essentially saying that humans had a good run, and to wipe ’em out. So the Monolith starts multiplying again to block out the sun; fortunately, the Bowman/HAL hybrid thingie that calls itself Halman now, has infected the Monolith with a virus that disintegrates them. Humanity saved, and future looks pretty bright. The end…for good now.

So, here we are, finally. The final book of the four in the Space Odyssey series, and…really, the majority of the time it’s a futuristic fish-out-of-water kind of book, with a revived Frank Poole suddenly finding himself the Philip J. Fry in this Futurama situation. Like his other books, Clarke seems to have more fun with the technical wonders of speculative future tech, with the actual plot being kind of a secondary thing. It was the way of the old school Science Fiction writers, keep in mind. I do have to admit, though, with the revelation of the Monoliths being constructs that were more or less breaking down a bit, and taking them out with a virus from within kind of takes the awe and mystery out of the sails, but really. By now there should be some kind of explanation for those things. I did like the history of the alien beings that started the whole thing. Gives a bit of overall scope of how long this has been going on.

Overall, 3001: The Final Odyssey was a decent cap of a decent science fiction series. Sure, the book raises more questions than it answers, but I was rather satisfied with how things ended. As to the questions this leaves…well, I’m going to just have to speculate and use my imagination for those. Sadly, Clarke died eleven years after this book was published. But, if you get the chance, check out the entire Space Odyssey series, maybe not like I did, but it’s worth checking out.

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