Monday, May 12, 2014

Hugo Winner Review: 1974 Rendezvous with Rama

Arthur C. Clarke
Finished reading 3/15/2013, reviewed 3/15/2013
3 stars

In general, I have mixed feelings about Arthur C. Clarke’s writing.  “Rendezvous with Rama,” like other books I’ve read by him, reads like an excellent non-fiction work.  Clarke’s forte lies in his scientific imagination and his descriptions of these scientific wonders.  I also really enjoy his writing about what’s happening internally and externally to his characters. 

Where I get frustrated is in his characterizations.  I understand what his characters are doing and thinking, but not necessarily what they’re feeling.  His characters have no arc.  They don’t grow from their experiences.  Their interactions are sterile.  They are simply a part of the documentary. 

When I began this book, I realized it was another Space Odyssey.  It had the same plodding dryness.  I was worried I’d be bored with it.  I was pleasantly surprised when I was taken with the story and found myself reading it voraciously.  When I finished it, though, I felt a little empty, like I had missed something.  I think it’s because I felt like I do when I watch a documentary that includes dramatic re-enactments:  intrigued, but thinking they should have told me what the people did rather than show me.

Some of that drama is good, like the Jimmy Pak’s flight of the Dragonfly and the conflict created by the Hermians.  But I didn’t feel like I really go into anybody’s skin.  I was just watching the activity from the outside looking in.

I also would have liked Clarke to expand upon the religious angle.  I like when science fiction plays with religion.  He gave us a taste with the Cosmo Christers, but I would have liked something more than an amuse bouche.

While reading “Rama,” I really wanted to give it four stars.  Instead, I took off a star to placate that emptiness I felt when I was done.  

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