Following a pop culture staple like “2001: A Space Odyssey” is no easy feat even for its author, as we see here. Although it’s a direct sequel, Arthur C. Clarke chose to follow the sequence of events from the Stanley Kubrick film version (well, both screenplay and novel were developed simultaneously), which makes for several jarring adjustments. Not to mention the fact that the characters here are severely under-developped, and that returning character Heywood Floyd isn’t a particular engaging individual nor does he seem to have any real purpose aboard the Leonov except to stay out of the way. That being said, Clarke’s flirtation with metaphysics and his expansion of the universe he first introduced in the first novel is intellectually stimulating, pondering (much like the first one) the very meaning of life and where it may be headed. Additionally, the novel has several unexpected twists along the way that make for an experience comfortably lodged somewhere between pulpy, page-turning best-seller and unapologetically advanced technical and scientific briefing, with Clarke’s sophisticated hand guiding even a scientifically restricted reader like myself across complicated theorems and theories. Ultimately it’s a bit disappointing, but only when considered in the shadow of its predecessor, and suggests this literary universe has plenty more to offer a voracious reader.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)