I recently reread 3001 The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clark. I first read it many years ago and to be honest I can’t actually remember what I thought of it. This time around, seeing as I write the occasional review, I thought I would be more attentive to the story, style and setting.
First of all, I really ought to discuss where this book fits in. I’m sure you are aware of the film and book, 2001 A Space Odyssey – which you can think of as a joint project by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick. We are introduced to the mystery of the Monolith and the epic adventure and eventual transformation of Dave Bowman.
In the sequel, 2010 Odyssey Two, new characters are introduced and a further exploration of the mystery of the monolith. We meet Dave Bowman again, though briefly, and a Russian crew out to save the spaceship Discovery from the first film. We also learn why the computer, Hal 9000, murdered the crew. The story was written by Arthur C. Clark, the eventual film was directed by Peter Hyams. Both of which had the blessing of Stanley Kubrick.
Then comes the next book, 2061 Odyssey Three. The character of Haywood Floyd, who was introduced in the first book and features in the second, takes a trip to Halley’s comet. On the way, and after various mishaps, two people end up on Europa. At this point we discover there is indeed life there and it’s guarded by another monolith. This book does further the story somewhat and reveals more about the mysterious monolith and what happened to Dave Bowman and the ‘consciousness’ of the HAL 9000 computer.
After all of that, we end up with 3001 the Final Odyssey.
In this book, one of the original astronauts, Frank Poole, is found floating in space. Modern science has moved on somewhat and after a thousand years he is revived. He is then introduced to the new world of marvels with the help of Professor Anderson who revived him and Doctor Indra Wallace, later a romantic interest. And really, that’s where the book dwells. For a good three quarters of the story, we are following Frank Poole’s exploration and travels. It’s not until towards the end do find out more about Europa and the monolith. It seems rushed, and for me, ruined the mystery that was established with the first book. We find that Dave Bowman and Hal 9000 have become almost a single entity. We discover that behind the monolith’s are nothing more than just ‘aliens’ with an agenda – to act as Sheppard’s over civilisations and decide which is fit to continue. An old trope maybe but I kinda expected more.
When you’ve read all the books, it does seem like the final one is ‘out of joint’. However, if you are a fan of this series, then there’s something you should be aware of. From Wikipedia…
Clarke consistently stated that each of the Odyssey novels takes place in its own separate parallel universe – this is demonstrated by the facts that the monoliths are still in existence at the end of 2010: Odyssey Two and that Floyd is no longer part of the trinity formed at the end of 2061: Odyssey Three. These parallel universes are a part of Clarke’s retroactive continuity.
We can take it then, that the series is not really a continuing story. Not if there are differences as cited above. If each individual story takes place in a ‘parallel universe’, are they related? If not, then they just happen to feature common characters, places and events. This revelation makes me feel really uncomfortable and very confused.
It doesn’t make sense to consider this book as a ‘standalone’ story, as you have to understand where the characters come from and their motivations. Also, to consider it as part of a series doesn’t make sense either. I guess I should just enjoy the story but the rush to the end, the disjointed nature of the series and slow plot line, it really should have been much better and so much more.