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I like big books.

2010: Odyssey Two

2010: Odyssey Two - Arthur C. Clarke 2010, surprisingly enough spends the bulk of its pages devoted to reliving and retconning the events of 2001 due to content conflicts with the film version. Fairly enough, Clarke opts to treat the film version of events as canon and attempts to broaden the story from the personal one told in 2001 of Dave Bowman's struggle for survival against Hal in a sort of one-on-one intellectual death match between man and machine and expand on the repercussions of Dave's transformation for all of humanity. Following in Bowman's footsteps is the man who sent him to Jupiter in the first place - Heywood Floyd, who comes out of semi-retirement and a second marriage to uncover just what happened to the crew of Discovery. In an almost prescient move, Clarke has the American team of scientists hitchhiking on a Russian vessel.

This novel has all the suspense of its predecessor. The ever-present danger of near absolute zero vacuum lurking mere centimeters away on the other side of a thin shell, the claustrophobia of ships sensitive to weight requirements and the scarily precise calculations necessary to keep you alive (and still orbiting the sun instead of on a one-way trip into interstellar space) create a heavy atmosphere that propels the narrative forward. In addition, the crew of the Leonov finds soon after their departure that they have some competition in the race to Discovery: a Chinese crew who've disguised their ship as an orbiting space station for years has a head start and ownership of its important records and priceless knowledge looks to be slipping through the crews' fingers with each passing moment.

What ultimately slows down the story is the unnecessary padding with recap of events from the previous book. Not just recap - I should choose my words with greater care - the wholesale self-plagiarism of entire chapters at a time that are annoyingly distracting to the driving central narrative. The entire trip out to discovery is used as a narrative device to catch readers up on events from the previous book and we get small glimpses and character studies of the new crew of Leonov. The novel feels like it doesn't even really begin until the last third to quarter of the book's pages. Still, that last leg of the book drives pretty hard and there are a lot of really intense moments that will have you on edge and there are a lot of mysteries that are opened and closed by the expanding narrative. The payoff makes it worth the drudgery. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for 2061 and 3001.