If what you liked most in 2001: A Space Odyssey was all the nitty-gritty of being aboard a space ship and the exploration, then you might love the second book 2010: Odyssey Two in Arthur C Clarke’s Space Odyssey series. It has been nine years since the fatal trip to Jupiter to explore the alien monolith when HAL 9000 killed the astronauts and David Bowman became a star child. The spaceship Discovery is still stranded around Jupiter near the monolith. So, the Americans and Soviets embark on a joint trip to explore the monolith again, check out Discovery and possibly also use the trip to examine some of Jupiter’s moons. While a lot of the story is the same as before, there is a lot more of crew dynamics on long space journeys, interesting space problems, more mysterious behavior of the monolith, life forms discovered in our Solar System, more analysis of HAL’s behavior, more hand-wavy star-child happenings and a final escape from catastrophe for our protagonists.
This book is an excellent sequel. If you liked the first one, you will most probably love this one. The weakest part is, yet again, the David Bowman star-child, who is used to transition some of the story, which he does by communicating with Floyd (the main character) and HAL. Also not quite satisfying, is the behavior of the alien monolith, which in the end gobbles up Jupiter, creating a new star. Clarke wants to push the idea that these monoliths are left as beacons by superior alien forms to discover intelligent life, test it and aid it to higher intelligence. If so, its behavior in the novel is quite a bit of hand waving. But as always, Clarke is on strong footing with actual space travel. It is engrossing to be a part of his spaceship and observe the daily life on it and the many personal, social and relationship problems that can occur. Whether he can keep the magic going for the third book or not, his masterful story telling made this second one a delightful read.
You think the Agile daily standup meeting is a new concept? Here it is, aboard the spaceship Leonov, on its journey to Jupiter:
Every day at 1800 GMT the crew of seven plus one passenger gathered in the tiny common room that separated the flight deck from the galley and sleeping quarters. The circular table at its centre was just big enough for eight people to squeeze around; when Chandra and Curnow were revived, it would be unable to accommodate everyone, and two extra seats would have to be fitted in somewhere else. Though the Six O’Clock Soviet, as the daily round-table conference was called, seldom lasted more than ten minutes, it played a vital role in maintaining morale. Complaints, suggestions, criticisms, progress reports – anything could be raised, subject only to the captain’s overriding veto, which was very seldom exercised.
An interesting note by Clarke, on how the book was written:
This book was written on an Archives III microcomputer with Word Star software and sent from Colombo to New York on one five-inch diskette. Last-minute corrections were transmitted through the Padukka Earth Station and the Indian Ocean Intelsat V.