3001: The Final Odyssey: Short, unnecessary series conclusion

3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke science fiction book reviews3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

The elements that make 2001: A Space Odyssey a classic — the pacing, dramatic tension, smartly efficient plot lines — are mostly missing from Arthur C. Clarke‘s Space Odyssey finale, 3001: The Final Odyssey. What it retains is Clarke’s obvious exuberance for biological, technological and cultural evolution. Each book in the series represents an evolution in itself even, of Clarke’s own perspective and thinking on the growth of humanity overtime, while providing a platform for his reflections on extraterrestrial life and evolution.

Beware of spoilers for the previous books below. I’m assuming anyone who reads this review will likely have read the three preceding novels.

3001’s story follows Frank Poole, murdered by the omnipresent HAL in 2001, found preserved and alive after floating in the cold vacuum of space for 1000 years. It’s through Frank’s eyes, mind, and mouth that Clarke exposes his views on the future. Religion is no more, and technology is the new religion. And while technological advancement has skyrocketed beyond Poole’s own age, one character speaks Clarke’s famous law that “sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Poole doesn’t understand the technologies of the new age, but has faith enough to accept them.

In connecting this story to the previous three novels, Clarke writes in a couple of ‘guest appearances’ by David Bowman and HAL — now a single entity called Halman. They appear, literally and figuratively, as mere shadows of their former selves. Poole’s character, and the smattering of future humans he interacts with, are not nearly enough to carry the story of 3001 itself, however.

In tying up loose ends, we learn more about the entities that sent the Monoliths to earth. While this novel is not terrific, I’ve enjoyed Clarke’s exploration and vision of these invisible hands seeding the universe and acting as interplanetary farmers. (Note: much of this is speculated in the previous novels so I don’t think they really count as ‘spoilers’.)

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.

 

For years they studied, collected, catalogued. When they had learned all that they could, they began to modify. They tinkered with the destiny of many species, on land and in the seas. But which of their experiments would bear fruit, they could not know for a least a million years. They were patient.

The last two novels in the Space Odyssey series are weak. They’re really no more than long novellas and do little to build on the mythology started in 2001. Unless you feel compelled to ‘complete’ Clarke’s quadrilogy, you miss out on little by reading only 2001 and its very strong sequel, 2010.

Space Odyssey — (1968- ) Publisher: The year is 2001, and cosmonauts uncover a mysterious monolith that has been buried on the Moon for at least three million years. To their astonishment, the monolith releases an equally mysterious pulse-a kind of signal-in the direction of Saturn after it is unearthed. Whether alarm or communication, the human race must know what the signal is-and who it was intended for. The Discovery and its crew, assisted by the highly advanced HAL 9000 computer system, sets out to investigate. But as the crew draws closer to their rendezvous with a mysterious and ancient alien civilization, they realize that the greatest dangers they face come from within the spacecraft itself. HAL proves a dangerous traveling companion, and the crew must outwit him to survive. This novel version of the famous Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey was written by Clarke in conjunction with the movie’s production. It is meant to stand as a companion piece, and it offers a complementary narrative that’s loaded with compelling science fiction ideas.

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JASON GOLOMB, on our staff from September 2015 to November 2018, graduated with a degree in Communications from Boston University in 1992, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University in 2005. His passion for ice hockey led to jobs in minor league hockey in Baltimore and Fort Worth, before he returned to his home in the D.C. metro area where he worked for America Online. His next step was National Geographic, which led to an obsession with all things Inca, Aztec and Ancient Rome. But his first loves remain SciFi and Horror, balanced with a healthy dose of Historical Fiction.

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2 comments

  1. ” Poole doesn’t understand the technologies of the new age, but has faith enough to accept them.”

    Nice use of irony, Jason, in a world that no longer practices any particular spiritual faith!

    I will take your advice and contain myself to re-reading the first two.

  2. You’re kinder to this book than I would have been, Jason.

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