May 08 2007

2001: A Space Odyssey

Category: BooksChrisM @ 6:37 pm

2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke

OK, if you’ve not heard of this book, I’m assuming you’re either very young, or have been living in a small hamlet isolated from society for the past 40 years…

Just in case you fall into either of those two categories, I’ll continue 😉 Doing a bit of research for this novel, I came across the fact that the book was written at the same time as the film, and actually published after the film. I’d just assumed the film was made due to the success of the book, so I might go and watch the film again soon, to re-appraise it.
The basic plot line is that life on earth was helped along by aliens, who leave a large slab of mysterious material, which can communicate with the monkey/humans around it. The idea of using tools or weapons is then planted in the tribe of early humans, and they can therefore achieve supremacy over the less well equipped tribes in their vicinity.
Fast forward to 1999 (which was of course in the future when this book was written), and we meet Dr Floyd. The link between the two time periods become clear, as another slab has been discovered on the moon. It defies all attempts to measure or quantify it, which obviously peaks the scientists’ interest in it. Once they have removed all the moon dirt from it, a hugely powerful radio signal is produced, possibly signifying that other life forms are waiting for humankind to get to the position of being able to travel in space.
Of course, HAL soon makes an appearance (of ‘I’m afraid I can’t let you do that Dave‘ fame) as the on board computer for a spaceship with a hidden mission.
In the same way that Isaac Asimov often makes use of this plot device, Arthur C Clarke has HAL become confused (read homicidal) due to conflicting basic operating paramaters, which has been used by Hollywood a lot since – think of RoboCop’s prime directives etc.
I won’t say much more, as I don’t want to ruin the experience for people who’ve not yet read the book, but suffice to say that I don’t view this book as over-hyped, and you should probably read it when you get a chance.

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