Outis's Reviews > Rendezvous with Rama

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
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U 50x66
's review
May 22, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction

A pleasant page-turner in the Jules Verne vein, but understated.
The brilliant introduction sets up a plausible but curtailed First Contact story involving a near-future ad-hoc crew, an amazing alien artifact and a time limit. Because it's plausible, you can share in the characters awe and imagine the wide-ranging implications of the plot for its setting. And the time limit allows Clarke to wrap up the story fairly quickly without trivializing the significance of what happened to his world.
The book could have been a bit shorter though. Some of the subplots don't seem necessary.

Rama's biggest failing is its ending (or lack thereof).
The final twist was appropriate enough and the books's central mystery was obviously not going to be fully unravelled but I don't think it's OK to give your readers so little on which to chew after so many pages. Obviously this is a common problem for this type of story and there's a good reason why people write them that way. But it's still frustrating.

This is a 40 year old about our future. This is charming and adds an unintended layer for the reader to analyse but creates a few problems.
The setting now seems in some ways unrealistic (a permanent colony on Triton with a representative to the "United Planets" so early in the future?).
The science and the tech is a bit dated, especially in the IT area (as one might have expected). Overall I think the story still holds up very well.
The sexism and gender stereotyping is not as bad as in many other books but still at times outrageous (as one might have expected).
And one of the less plausible subplots is straight out of the cold war (as one might have expected).

There's some preposterous physics at the end but it doesn't impact the overall story much.
I also wish the final chapter had been edited out for different reasons.

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Outis I now read (by the way of Jemisin) that Clarke was gay. That might explain the weirdness of that thing about boobs. That'd be less icky than the other explanation anyway.

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