Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Final Odyssey by Arthur Clarke

Title: The Final Odyssey
Author: Sir Arthur Charles Clarke
Publisher: Del Ray
Original Publication Date: 1997
Pages: 272

It is noteworthy to consider how Arthur Clarke opened the third book, and what the ramifications to the entire series were. With wanting pragmatism, he wrote that:

"Just as 2010: Odyssey Two was not a direct sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, so this book is not a linear sequel to 2010. They must all be considered as variations on the same theme, involving many of the same characters and situations, but not necessarily happening in the same universe.

Developments since Stanley Kubrick suggested in 1964 (five years before men landed on the Moon!) that we should attempt 'the proverbial good science-fiction movie' make total consistency impossible, as the later stories incorporate discoveries and events that had not even taken place when the earlier books were written. 2010 was made possible by the brilliantly successful 1979 Voyager flybys of Jupiter, and I had not intended to return to that territory until the results of the even more ambitious Galileo Mission were in."

Deriving not only from what Clarke tried to project as a caveat but as well as from general systemic observations from the series, I find the pressing need to elaborate on the following points.

Clarke cautions his readers not to treat the apparently labeled series as well, a series of books characterized with continuity and relativity. This is clear when he phrased that 'it' was not a direct sequel and must be considered as variations of the same theme. For the reader however this is rather demanding if not theoretically impossible considering the method, characters and story arcs Clarke choose to write with. Putatively and substantially seen in this simple manner:

Book One: Dave Bowman mysteriously disappears while in transit on his mission

Book Two: Dave Bowman returns as a part of the Monoliths and another mission is launched in pursuit of ascertaining what had happened, Dr. Floyd Heywood becomes one of the major personas by this point

Book Three: Floyd Heywood returns in the scene of another space exploration

Book Four: Frank Poole re-emerges as what could be labeled as the single persona in the fourth book establishing a connection with the series.

For one who has read the series, the meager attempt to express the thought in the words above should suffice. After all the recurring references while reading the books there is hardly any need for me to elaborate on this.

Arguendo however, if we find the utter need to satisfy some inner justice and lend credence to Clarke's desire to treat the succeeding books not as sequels but stand-alones (and i believe this is what he meant when he said that they were "to be considered as variations of the same theme"), the books, with intrepid audacity, fall into a position that is not only demeriting but which I fear could unfortunately be an unprecedented fatal waterloo for the whole of Space Odyssey books. I qoute myself by saying that:

"The book did not feel a book at all while reading it (something i've started to feel in the first book already), but more something like of a novella, or a piece greater book that is the series. I'm starting to get the impression that the 4 books should have been published as one judging by what the content has encompassed so far"

Nothing has proven to be quite substantial in the series to merit a change in this perspective. In the contrary, I find that the deeper I was into it, the further my pretense was affirmed, conclusively in varying instances.

I too find it rather irritating, as short as the books already were, that Clarke included a chapter or three from the previous books, lifting them by the whole, which presumably he wanted to function as ardent nostalgic chapters reminding the reader of events that have passed. I find them nothing but repetitive vestiges that can choke the living hell out of the reader (to be fair that was an exaggeration). It was redundant, draggy, convenient and a poor excuse for an imagined attack of writer's block (and this is what I've honestly felt).

To be critical however, Space odyssey is still a page-turner as it is (whether of excitement with the next chapter or with boredom with the lifted ones). Arthur Clarke writes in a gripping manner that catches you until the last of the pages. I give credit to his imagination contained in the writing. For me they were fresh, novel and exciting. The mystery of the monoliths can keep the reader enthralled as far as the story goes, the very idea of the monoliths was exciting in itself. The biggest letdown of this series/variations on the same theme however lies in the revelation that it failed to deliver (sole reason why the fourth book was rated two stars). After all that excitement, I opened the Pandora's box only to see, nothing.
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