Well, in a bid to get back on track, I've gone to what I think is my first re-read of the challenge. It's also a favourite of one of my favourite podcasters, Admiral Marius of the Starbase 66 podcast.
I've read all of the Rama books, and Rama II is one of the few to survive my now (much-regretted) book culls. But I never felt any such attachment to the others. While I think it is fair to say it's unlikely I will be returning to Garden of Rama anytime soon (one of my pet peeves about Clarke is that he becomes just a little too smug and self-indulgent in later years and later books of some series), I am completely baffled by younger me. Why did I ever cull this book?
Now I realise it is a master of science fiction. It's sharp, tight & concise. The characters and the society they inhabit are clearly set out, almost without realising that it is being set out. Yes, there are the obligatory references to futuristic ways of having babies and relationships which today feel contrived, but that is the only thing that for me really dates the novel.
The other thing I love about this book is that, actually, not a lot happens. There aren't fantastical aliens doing unbelievable things. Obviously there isn't anything with which to actually compare, but, in some ways, it's a bit of an anti-climax. And that's what makes this book classic science-fiction.
I also love the ending. In my usual fashion, I didn't read thinking beyond the next sentence. And if ever there was an ending that whetted the appetite, this is it.
Picked this one up on a whim in the library. Well, I say that, but the size of this tome, it took quite deliberate effort to pick it up. It is huge and the writing is quite small. It's also a 'proper' diary in that it's not written every day, some days have lots of detail and insight and others consist literally of which birds the author spotted that day.
It was very obvious that there wasn't going to be anything salacious in this book: it had the approval of Her Majesty to be published. I also probably don't know enough about the period and the players to really get the most out of the book. However, it did give some interesting insights into the relationships of the players of the day. How well documented this is elsewhere I have no idea.
The other thing I did find ready fascinating from this book was the extent to which life didn't change for the well-connected in this book. The author frequently recounts dining at his club, going to the theatre, dinner with other equally well-connected characters. This isn't to say that the seriousness of what was happening is downplayed ~ it isn't, it's just interesting that not necessarily everything changed. It's also not terribly flattering of the Duke of Windsor, giving mention of what was concerning him during a terrible period of life for the British people.
I'm not going to recommend this book to everyone. If you are interested in WWII or the British upper-middle classes, have a read. Otherwise, just leave it.