After completing 2010: Odyssey Two, I needed to get my hands on the next book in the series. Several months later (because I can be stubborn about buying books new vs. second hand), I finally found 2061: Odyssey Three. As much I as loved 2001: A Space Odyssey and adored 2010, did 2061 stand up to the legacy of its predecessors?
The story of 2061
The book primarily picks up 51 years after the end of 2010. It once again features protagonist Doctor Heywood Floyd, though he’s not alone as it does change perspective to other characters every few chapters.
After the monoliths imploded planet Jupiter into a mini-sun, forever changing the universe, Floyd returned to Earth, only to have an accident that crippled him. For the past few decades, he has been living on a space station above Earth as the low gravity not only helps him recover. An unexpected side effect is that the low gravity environment has apparently slowed down his ageing process.
Floyd and several other guests are part the maiden voyage of the first commercial and private spacecraft. Their mission is to test out a new type of propulsion system as well as land on Halley’s Comet. Their trip is cut short when another spaceship crashes into one of Jupiter’s former moons, Europa. At the end of 2010, upon changing Jupiter, the monoliths forbade humans from ever setting foot on Europa. It’s a factor that Floyd and friends have to take into account during their mission.
Clarke’s tale and writing
Author Arthur C. Clarke continues his signature writing and narrative style, weaving in scientific terms within an excellent and easy to understand tale. The book is an easy-to-consume 256 pages in length, with chapters that are only, on average, three to five pages long.
While 2010 felt like a grounded science fiction novel – as grounded as a book about black slabs of immense power can be – 2061 takes on a more fantastical turn. The characters and their events are slightly more exaggerated. More focus is also placed on Halley’s Comet as opposed to the real threat. And even then, the book could have used an extra 30 pages or so to smooth out finer plot points.
Since the book was written before the end of Apartheid, there is an interesting bit about what happens to South Africa during that time.
My biggest complaint with the book is the final few chapters. It is only then that the story ties into the rest of the Odyssey series, which seems a waste. Too much of the tales is placed on plot points with little to no payoff.
My final verdict on 2061: Odyssey Three
2061: Odyssey Three was a worthwhile read and I’m glad that I finished it. Its easy consumption leads to a tale that wasn’t bogged down by too many needles elements. If you’re a fan of the Odyssey series, I’d say pick it up, because the tie-in aspects to the rest of the books are crucial. For others wanting to break into Odyssey‘s odyssey rather watch 2001: A Space Odyssey or read 2010: Odyssey Two.
Now, onto 3001: The Final Odyssey.