Josh's Reviews > 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001 by Arthur C. Clarke
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's review
Mar 26, 2012

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bookshelves: aliens, first-contact, sci-fi
Read in September, 2010

There is no need to recap the story of 2001, as it has become a staple of science fiction in both its novel and film forms. Unfortunately, in the film, much of the story is left untold, and the viewer either loves it or hates it. I was one of those who hated it. I found it pretentious, annoying, ambiguous, and wholly boring. The novel is quite different, not because the story itself is different, but because it is unmarred by Kubrick's tendancy toward artistic austerity.

Clarke is the exact opposite of Kubrick in this regard. Where Kubrick wanted to leave viewers confused, Clarke wants to explain. Thus, the novel is far more educational in its scope while being no less entertaining. In the movie, the point of the monolith in the beginning of the story barely connects with the rest of the tale yet, in the novel, it is crucial.

Unfortunately, for 2001, Clarke uses his heavy narratitive writing style, similar to *Rendezvous With Rama* as opposed to his more cinematic style as in *A Fall of Moondust*. Instead of characters performing actions, Clarke narrates the entire story from a detatched, God-like third-person perspective. In some cases, there are strings of chapters in which not a single thing actually happens. Sure, things are said to have happened, but we as readers never actually experience them. Instead, we just read about them as if we were reading a poorly written history text.

Like the movie, much of the novel is just plain boring. The story of the early humans in the beginning of the novel is completely without context, and it leaves us feeling as if we've been duped. Dr. Floyd's journey to Clavius Base on the Moon -- by itself without context and rather boring -- completely stops as the novel them jumps forward in time to Dr. Bowman on Discovery One, where the novel meets its most interesting character, the computer HAL.

Despite its many terrible flaws, the story is intriguing, and the foresight and creativity shown in the creation of the tale are spectacular. Its scope is massive, far more inclusive than many modern science fiction tales, and its many themes have become the bedrock for science fiction. For these reasons -- and because it is quite short -- I think it's worth reading.
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Steve Stuart "Where Kubrick wanted to leave viewers confused, Clarke wants to explain." Beautifully succinct explanation of the difference between the two.

Personally, I prefer for movies to leave things unsaid, and for (sci-fi) novels to explain the details, although I never thought to compare them in that way before reading your review.

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