Read Rama II by Arthur C. Clarke Free Online
Book Title: Rama II|
The author of the book: Arthur C. Clarke
Date of issue: November 1st 1989
ISBN 13: 9780553057140
Loaded: 2280 times
Reader ratings: 6.9
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 21.99 MB
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So. Two stars. That’s a really low rating for me. Normally, if I really don’t like a book, I just move on with my life. But this one had elements that hit close to home for me.
Sorry, I realize that I was just speaking Midwestern Understatement. What I meant to say was that this book is a tangible manifestation of my nightmares.
Is this an awful book? No.
Did I enjoy it? No. It frustrated me from the first page. From *before* the first page, actually. More than that, even. This book made me angry.
But is it a bad book in itself? No. Which is why I’m writing a review of it. To explain this strange situation and to talk about the danger of sequels.
First and foremost, you need to know that this is a review of a sequel.
For those of you who haven't read my review of the first Rama book, here's a link. This review will probably make better sense if you’ve read that.
For those of you who are too lazy to read and/or have a bizarre fear of clicking, I liked the first book. It's a very lean, tight piece of what I'd consider "Classical hard sci-fi" by which I mean there's a focus on the science, and an emphasis of plot over character.
This sequel was written more than 15 years later in collaboration with a different author: Gentry Lee. From what I've gathered, I think it's safe to say that Clarke provided some ideas for this sequel, while Lee is the one who actually wrote the book.
What went wrong:
Ultimately, everything that made me dislike this book stems from the fact that it’s a sequel to Rendezvous with Rama.
1. Enormous stylistic shift from the first book.
This book was much longer (more than twice as long) and much more descriptive than the first book. The structure itself was much more meandering, and non-linear.
Now I don't mean to say that Gentry's writing is unpleasant. Honestly, his style is much more like mine than Clarke's is. So I can't throw stones.
The problem is that it’s almost the opposite of everything Clarke did in the first book. Clarke’s description is lean to the point of austerity. And as I mentioned in my previous review, Clarke’s pacing and structure is so tight that it almost doesn’t allow room for tension. (Almost).
The result is that this sequel doesn’t just feel entirely different. (Which would be a big enough issue by itself) it’s that when held up against the first book, this one feels huge, loose, ponderous, and slow.
2. Huge shift in tone.
In the first book, Clark tells a story of humanity coming together and working against incredible odds to investigate a mystery. And by extension, improve the sum total of human knowledge.
It’s true that some people in the book react with fear, but wiser heads prevail. The story was optimistic and full of heroes. This makes it a book that’s hopeful about the future of humanity.
In the sequel, pretty much everyone is a bastard, by which I mean they’re motivated by self-interest. There are a few people that stand up to them… but that leads to an entirely different kind of story. A world where everyone’s a bastard except for 3 people isn’t an optimistic book.
The other huge change in character deals with the cleverness of the characters. In the first book, the characters are really clever. When investigating the alien ship, the Astronauts move with great deliberation and forethought. They’re painfully aware of the fact that they don’t know what’s going on. They treat the alien ship with reverence, and are careful… well… not to be total dickbags when interacting with the ship.
For example, when investigating the ship, they talk about cutting through walls so they can see the inner working of the ship or the contents of some of the structures…. But then they don’t, because they realize that that could be viewed as aggressive by the ship (Which has shown itself to be automated.) Also, when they encounter creatures on the ship, they decide *not* to try and capture and/or kill them. Because again, that would probably be seen as aggressive/destructive.
In the sequel, when they get onto the ship, almost the very *first* thing they do is try to attack/capture one of the creatures they see. And when it goes wrong a lot of the folks are like, “Holy shit, who ever thought it would come to this?!?”
Well, everyone who read the first book, I’m guessing. And probably anyone who wasn’t a total self-interested bastard, too.
3. Huge focal shift from the first book.
The first book of the series was focused primarily on the ship itself. There were was some backstory to the world, and there was some information on the characters, too. But all of that was in service to the center of the story, which was about the aliens and the mystery of their ship.
The sequel focuses on the characters themselves. There are twice as many, and nearly every character is a POV character at some point. And they all have backstories. And flashbacks. And ulterior motives that have nothing to do with unraveling the mystery of the ship.
The odd thing is that I actually *like* this kind of book more. Character stuff is my bread and butter. But that's not why I started reading this book. I started reading this book for answers to the mysteries that were brought up in the first book. But honestly? This book kinda didn't give a shit about the previously established mysteries at all.
And if you think I'm just being pissy, consider this:
The original Rama was 243 pages long. But in this second book, the crew doesn't even get to the ship until page 170 or so.
But ultimately, here's the real dealbreaker for me....
4. It turns out Clarke wrote Rendezvous with Rama as a stand-alone novel.
He mentioned this in his introduction. And when I read that piece of information, my initial reaction was genuine anger and disgust. As the opening to a three-part series that slowly unravels mysteries about a spaceship(s) and the alien race that created it, Rendezvous with Rama was a great book. But as a stand alone novel it has all the appeal of half a hand job. Half *dry* hand job. By a dumpster behind gas station.
Now this might seem a little harsh. But it really isn't. There's an enormous difference between a story that doesn't give you all the answers (either because of subtlety in the storytelling or because the answers will be coming in future books) and a story that has no answers to give. The main difference is that the latter story is utter bullshit.
This is what I mean when I said this book disappointed me from before the first page. What I found out in the introduction to this book actually made revise my opinion of the previous book, and lose respect for Clarke as an author. I’d assumed he was teasing us with a mystery. I’d assumed he had answers he was going to give us eventually.
But he didn't. And that is a betrayal of trust. It makes me go back and resent the book that I'd previously enjoyed. It actually makes me want to go back in and change my rating of the book here on goodreads. (And I may. I'm not sure...)
This is also what I was referring to when I mentioned that this book is my worst nightmare. It's proof that a sequel can be more than a disappointment. It can retroactively ruin a book you had previously enjoyed.
And yeah. That's a spooky thing to me. And it lets me know that I'm right to be careful with my own sequels.
I actually bought the third book of the series. But I'm not going to read it. It's a rare thing for me to give up on a series like this. But I feel ill-used by Clarke. And there are many other books to read....
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Read information about the authorArthur Charles Clarke was one of the most important and influential figures in 20th century science fiction. He spent the first half of his life in England, where he served in World War Two as a radar operator, before emigrating to Ceylon in 1956. He is best known for the novel and movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he co-created with the assistance of Stanley Kubrick.
Clarke was a graduate of King's College, London where he obtained First Class Honours in Physics and Mathematics. He is past Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society, a member of the Academy of Astronautics, the Royal Astronomical Society, and many other scientific organizations.
Author of over fifty books, his numerous awards include the 1961 Kalinga Prize, the AAAS-Westinghouse science writing prize, the Bradford Washburn Award, and the John W. Campbell Award for his novel Rendezvous With Rama. Clarke also won the Nebula Award of the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1972, 1974 and 1979, the Hugo Award of the World Science Fiction Convention in 1974 and 1980, and in 1986 became Grand Master of the Science Fiction Writers of America. He was awarded the CBE in 1989.
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