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Book 11

  1. Matheson, Richard — I Am Legend (161 pages)
  2. McCarthy, Cormac — No Country for Old Men (307 pages)
  3. Dexter, Gary — Why Not Catch 21?: The Stories Behind the Titles (213 pages)
  4. Ryman, Geoff — 253 (366 pages)
  5. Wyndham, John — The Day of the Triffids (267 pages)
  6. Kurkov, Andrey — Death and the Penguin (228 pages)
  7. Chesterton, G.K. — Orthodoxy (183 pages)
  8. Gibbs, Christopher H., ed. — The Cambridge Companion to Schubert (334 pages)
  9. Sendak, Maurice — Where the Wild Things Are (48 pages — though only 1 page will count towards my tally)
  10. Hurston, Zora Neale — Their Eyes Were Watching God (215 pages)
  11. Clarke, Arthur C. — Rendezvous With Rama (245 pages)

Page count: 2520.

With Clarke's passing two weeks ago, I decided to read one of his novels, as a mini-memorial of sorts. It was surprisingly difficult finding something suitable. When I finally did find an open bookstore with Clarke books, I couldn't decide between Rendezvous With Rama and The City and the Stars; it's a good thing the store didn't also have The Fountains of Paradise or I might have bought that, too. Anyway, now you know what I'll be reading next.

The plot of Rendezvous With Rama was surprisingly good, given what it was: a space crew investigating a seemingly unpeopled alien vessel as it swings through our solar system. The story was quite a page-turner at times.

However, this strength is also its weakness, and perhaps a weakness of all hard science fiction. The book is entirely plot driven, and the plot is driven almost entirely by technological and/or scientific considerations. Thus, as solid as the science or the plot may be, the book lacks any depth or layering. Based on the evidence read thus far (Rendezvous With Rama and Childhood's End), Clarke will never rank among the great authors, or even the great authors who wrote science fiction (such as Le Guin, Bradbury, et al.).

I don't mean that to be debasing. Clarke's oeuvre has a place, right alongside other authors I've enjoyed such as Crichton. There are times I want something deep and meaningful, and there are times I want a good, fast-paced read, the book equivalent of a blockbuster Hollywood space action flick. This is Clarke's niche.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 3rd, 2008 03:42 am (UTC)
There were six Rama books: four by Clarke and two by Gentry Lee. I'm pretty sure I read the first four, written before Clarke lost interest and read before I lost interest. In one sense, they were all pretty much the same, or used the same formula and the same characters, with only minor variations in plot and ending. Well, just like all the Mickey Spillane mystery books were superficially the same.

Clarke's achievement was in creating the Rama universe, the backdrop to a series of themed stories. Others may have done it before but not so successfully. Herbert and others copied the technique, honed it a bit, and created series like Dune that sometimes outlived their authors. Clarke's invention of interesting universes as stages for action eventually led to some long-running television series such as Babylon-5 and the Stargate programs. Clarke led the way.
Apr. 3rd, 2008 08:23 am (UTC)
Re: Rama
The three immediate sequels were collaborations between Clarke and Lee. It is my understanding that Lee wrote them almost entirely himself, and Clarke read them and offered improvements. I have no intention of reading the sequels.
Apr. 3rd, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Rama
I probably knew that -- at one time, decades ago -- but the passage of time has smoothed over details like that.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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