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2001: A Space Odyssey Book Review

2001: A Space Odyssey.  It is written by Arthur C. Clarke.  The book starts by introducing a caveman named Moon-Watcher.  He is living in a group of cavemen that starve and constantly.  They are mainly gathers, but sometimes hunt.  Their biggest enemies are a jaguar and another group of cavemen.  One day, a mysterious crystal slab appears.  It hypnotizes the cavemen almost everyday. When it stops controlling them, they have no recollection of the happenings.  It is basically testing out its powers on these primitive beings.  Another day, the cave men find odd crude weapons lying around.  They had never seen anything like them before.  Some were long and had a point on the end, while others were short and bulky.  After mastering how to use them, they were never hungry again.  They could hunt as much as they want.  They even killed the jaguar.  This was the beginning of the human race beginning to conquer.

Book Cover

Now the book skips to the future.  Dr. Heywood Floyd is introduced as he is about to journey to the moon to see TMA-1 (we do not know what this is yet).  He first arrives at the space station for information and a break from space flight, then he keeps going on to the moon.  Once he arrives at the station on the moon, he gets briefed on TMA-1.  This is apparently a place on the moon with an incredibly strong magnetic field.  After investigation, it was found that it was coming from a smooth crystal slab with the sides having a ratio of 1: 4: 9.  When Dr. Floyd went to investigate the slab, the sun was rising over the lunar horizon.  When the monolith (crystal slab) came in contact with the suns light, it sent an odd signal to somewhere else in the solar system.          The author now takes us to the story of David Bowman.  This is a man who has previous experience in space.  He is now being sent on a journey to Saturn on the space craft Discovery.  His crew mate, Frank Poole, will be helping him along the way.  The other crew members will be in hibernation for the years until they get to Saturn.  The computer Hal will be doing most of the navigating, system checks, data recording, and a plethora of other things.  All systems are go and they set off on their adventure.  They soon get into the swing of things and work in shifts.  While not working, the two crew mates keep their minds occupied by reading, learning, or playing puzzle games with Hal.  Soon the crew reaches the asteroid belt.  They send out a probe to collect information and pictures.  This was one of the most eventful days they had experienced for a long period of time.  The next out of the ordinary day came when they reached the planet Jupiter.  They needed Jupiter to give them an extra speed boost to Saturn.  They also wanted to gain information from this planet since they were going right past it.  They orbited the planet once, and lost contact with Earth for a short period of time.  They also sent probes down to the planet and took pictures.  They gained massive amounts of information.          One day soon after, Hal warns them that their AE-35 unit will fail within the next 72 hours.  The AE-35 unit is what lets the crew contact Earth.  After consulting with mission control, they decide to go out and replace the unit.  Frank Poole goes out and after some hard work replaces the unit with and new one.  After coming back in with the bad unit David and Frank go and test it to find out what the problem was.  They find no problems with the unit and tell mission control the results.  They begin to question Hal and his accuracy.  While reading a couple of days later, Hal says that the new AE-35 unit will fail within the next 24 hours.  They are unsure of what to do and talk to mission control.  They think Hal may be malfunctioning.  While talking to mission control about deactivating Hal, the screen goes blank and an alarm goes off saying the AE-35 system failed.  They apologize to Hal about doubting him.  Frank goes out to replace the unit, and takes a small space pod for transportation.  While out there, the pod goes haywire and slams into Frank carrying him off into space.          Without being able to talk to Earth, David Bowman must fend for himself knowing that Hal just killed his partner.  He decides that he will wake up another crew member from hibernation early.  He gets into an argument with Hal about waking up the person manually or automatically (controlled by Hal) David eventually wins.  While waking up another crew member from hibernation, David hears the airlock door opening and the vacuum of space coming in.  Hal had just opened the door in and attempt to kill him.          David quickly tries to get to the small emergency room with liquid oxygen in them.  He had been trained to survive in a vacuum for a short period of time.  He gets to the secret room just in time and releases the oxygen.  He takes a breath of relief and puts on the space suit in the room preparing himself to face Hal.  He suits up and walks to the control room to deactivate Hal.  While doing this, Hal’s memory basically gets rewound and Hal says strange facts and mathematical equations the whole time.  Eventually, David is now alone.  He goes out of the airlock door to attempt to restore contact with Earth.  He succeeded and then said into the earth contact mike, “Goodbye”.          After contact was restored mission control decided to tell him the secret of the mission that he did not know.  When TMA-1 was discovered it sent a signal across the solar system to Saturn.  It is expected that it actually went to Japetus, one of Saturn’s moons.  He was sent on the journey to investigate this mysterious signal.            For the rest of the months that he would spend by himself, David Bowman spent reading or listening to music.  The ship was now under controls of an Earth computer.  After months of uneventful traveling, Saturn was finally within reach. He had to perform a few convoluted maneuvers he reached Japetus.  While orbiting Japetus he saw something extremely strange.  It was something that looked like a mile high TMA-1.  A crystal slab with a ratio of 1: 4: 9.  Astronomers decided to call it TMA-2.  He went into explore when he landed on the surface in the space pod, he saw something strange.  There was an endless pit of stars going down into the moon, and no crystal slab.  It was the Star Gate.          He ventured into the bottomless pit of stars.  Everything around him began to move at light speed, but he felt no sense of movement at all.  This went on until he suddenly appeared in a strange place out of the Milky Way galaxy.  The place looked like, “the inside of a ping-pong ball”.  On the planet below he saw what looked like a space junkyard.  An odd space ship flew by that looked like a spinning needle.  Out of nowhere, the Star Gate appeared again and he got sucked in.  This time he appeared next to two stars orbiting each other.  Suddenly, what looked like a hotel room materialized around him.  The books had no words inside and all the television shows were two years old.  Feeling tired, David Bowman decided to take a nap.  As he slept, the things that had created his room rewound his life before his eyes.  All of his life was being recorded by the crystal monoliths through a sort of light beam.  After all of his life had flashed before his eyes, he was a baby again.  Even though he was a baby, he understood even the most complex problems of the universe.  He had been transformed into a Star Child.          After his transformation, the Star Child traveled through the universe.  Time did not limit him.  He traveled at superhero speeds back to where he had originally been from.  This Star Child came back to Earth.          The characters in this book had amazingly developed emotions and feelings.  David Bowman for one, dealt with difficult situations with intelligence and superb problem solving skills.  He had an extensive knowledge of space and technology.  He had taken many space flights in his career and was extremely brave.  Bowman was never frightened of Hal or his over two year long space voyage.  He was the First Captain of the space craft Discovery.  Frank Poole is another character. He is also an intelligent man.  He is David Bowman’s crewmate on the voyage.  Frank is killed by Hal while trying to replace the AE-35 unit.  Dr. Heywood Floyd is a well respected scientist with not as much space traveling experience, but still a good amount of it.  He had been to the moon three times and Mars once.  He is sent to the moon to investigate TMA-1 and see if he can figure anything out.  He was holding the mysterious crystal slab when it sends the signal across the solar system to Saturn.  Hal is the main antagonist of the story. He is a computer with extensive knowledge and the power to control the ship.  He is responsible for the fatalities on the journey. Hal basically mal
functioned and almost killed David.  The last main character is Moon-Watcher.  He is caveman at the beginning of the book.  He lives near the equator in Africa.  His people were dieing from attacks, thirst, and hunger.  He was part of the group that was being hypnotized by the first crystal monolith on Earth.  He also helped to kill the jaguar that was killing people in their tribe.  Moon-Watcher was brave, but unsympathetic.          The setting of this book was mainly in the spacecraft Discovery in spaceThis was a high-tech spacecraft that could reach super speeds and travel long distances.  The space was a massive black that went on forever except for the small gleaming lights which were the stars.  Saturn looked like a large colorful hurricane was attacking the planet.  When written, the book was meant to take place in the future.  Now though, 2001 would be considered in the past.  There are still futuristic technologies and ideas in the book though.          The author’s point of view for the story was third person (limited).  The author only expressed one character’s feelings or opinion, depending on the part of the book.  For the part about the cavemen, Moon-Watcher’s views were expressed.  For the part about the moon, Floyd’s feelings were expressed.  Lastly, for the main part about going to Saturn, whatever Bowman thought was conveyed in the book.  The author’s tone was suspenseful and mysterious.   The author seemed like he liked space travel and supported it.  The author created the feeling of mystery because the believed that space was full of unsolved mysteries and unexplored territory.  The author showed that humans do not know about everything that takes place in the universe.

          I actually enjoyed this book more than I thought I would.  I understood most of the book the first time I read it.  A few of the parts I had to read over again.  The most difficult part for me was reading the last few chapters in which the author spoke in mainly figurative language and hid many meanings in the text.  The author did a remarkable job making you want to keep reading and longing to know what happens next.  He even made a character with a personality out of a computer.  He personified it and made it seem real.  I thought that it was interesting the way the book was split up into three different stories that tied together at the end.  I would recommend this book to another person if they liked science fiction.  This book sort of applies to real life since people are developing technology to be even more advanced, and venturing deeper into the uncharted waters of space.  If I was rating the book, I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars. 

Computer HAL

Categories: Articles
  1. Avatar_lover_33612
    March 29, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Sorry. It is kind of long…

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