Rendezvous With Rama

Monday, September 9, 2013

Rendezvous With Rama
Arthur C. Clarke, 1973

Hugo Winner - 1974

Premise: First it looked like a spark. Then a comet with an odd trajectory. Once observers realized what the object was, it was almost too late to divert the ship Endeavour to take a closer look. The crew of the Endeavour are in for a truly unique experience.

This was delightful. It's one of the ‘hardest’ SF tales to come up in the ranks of the Hugos so far, but Clarke does a brilliant job surrounding the scientific theorizing with human characters and human concerns.

I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say that the object designated Rama is a spaceship: source, destination and purpose unknown. The crew have to figure out how to explore the alien structure thoroughly and quickly, because they are unable to alter its course and they must break away by a certain deadline. The captain also has to balance the reality before his eyes against the sometimes-contradictory orders coming from Earth.

We're moving solidly into the 1970's by the time this came out, and it's neat to see all the asides about new religions and different family structures and sexualities sprinkled into the character descriptions. (I did especially enjoy the Church of Jesus Christ, Cosmonaut.) I was disappointed that the genetically engineered super-apes that help out onboard ship are barely mentioned, just an interesting part of the setting.

The characters are given enough depth to make them compelling, but no more. Rama is the star, and fascinating enough to carry that distinction. Despite the fact that there is little in the way of plot, I had trouble putting this book down, and I was fully satisfied by the ending. (I have heard less-nice things about the sequels written many years later, and I don't think I'm going to seek them out.) This is a classic humanity-against-the-unknown story, and worthy of its many accolades.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

List of Hugo Winners

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it's been ages since I've read this, we must be on the same brainwave, just the other day I was thinking "I haven't read Rama in a while, I should pick it up again". I do remember really liking it, especially the scenes where they are exploring inside the ship.

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