I don’t usually do book reviews as I’m not a big fan of them. So I’m not sure that this is a review. It’s probably closer to a commentary on 3001 and Arthur C. Clarke’s work as a whole.
As a film buff, I find 2001: A Space Odyssey to be the most ambitious movie ever made. I also think Peter Hyams’ 2010 is an underrated gem that doesn’t detract from its predecessor at all. What both these films do is ask more questions of humanity than it answers. However, it is typical for both film and book series to provide a sense of closure.
Which is why I was somewhat disappointed with Clarke’s 2061 and 3001. In fact, I found 2061 to be entirely superfluous. I enjoyed 3001 far more but even then I found the final entry to the Odyssey series to be wanting.
That is, until I read Clarke’s “valediction” at the end of 3001, where he reiterates what he stated in the introduction to 2061:
While in a certain sense I found this explanation to be a cop out, it does stand to reason when you evaluate Clarke’s work as a whole. In fact, I totally bought this same explanation for his Rama series. Rendezvous with Rama is one of the greatest works of hard science fiction and one one of my personal favorites. Yet its sequels are far friendlier to popular audiences. While I found the sequels to be a guilty pleasure, their perspectives don’t quite mesh with the original. To account for this, I too have to adopt Clarke’s rationale in his 3001 valediction.
Plus, the conclusion to the Odyssey series is in keeping with the themes found in his other works. From what books I’ve read from Clarke (I haven’t read them all), he rarely offer easy answers. In fact, that’s part of the reason why Rendezvous with Rama is so effective: there’s no clear explanation, merely speculation, for what the Rama craft is and why it visited the Solar System.
I think there’s an assumption that when we make contact with an intelligent, spacefaring extraterrestrial species, everything will be absolutely clear. At least that is what’s presented in mass entertainment. But that’s never the conclusion that Clarke reaches.
Space is unimaginably huge. And insofar as scientists can tell, there’s a limit to how fast information can travel. In all likelihood, when the first positive confirmation of intelligent life is found, it will likely be centuries before contact is made. Humanity, as a result, will be flipped on its head where entire theories will be obsolete and new fields of speculation will be established. Where humanity stands presently, it is unlikely that we have the language and understanding to fully grasp the final answers. That’s what it means to come face to face with “God”.
So to me, it’s these steps in human evolution…on our ultimate path towards the infinite…where Clarke found his fascination. That’s why he rarely provided answers: because we aren’t ready for them.
For a director I don’t particularly like, I’ve seen most of David Cronenberg’s films. Despite their subject matter and shock value, these movies rarely promote much of a response from me. I either low key REALLY like them, or low key hate them.
So I don’t know why I started watching Shivers on Tubi. Probably because it’s one of Cronenberg’s first films. What sucks is that Tubi crapped out on me an hour into the film so I missed most of the good shit (Tubi, btw, has every movie known to God but the app itself sucks penis).
But Shivers is interesting. Perhaps it made me realize something about Cronenberg’s filmography: everyone looks like shit. Mind you, Shivers was made in the 70s and likely had a small budget. Still though, I think the decision to make everyone look terrible was a deliberate one. Even the “attractive” people made me want to barf. Cronenberg’s forte is body horror, after all.
This made me question my prior appraisal of the director. David Cronenberg approaches the human subject as if the viewer is an alien. When we watch the behavior of animals, we are simultaneously fascinated and disgusted. An extraterrestrial would probably feel the same way if they ever observed people.
Human beings are disgusting creatures. And most of the time, we fail to appreciate that…
“So you cast God into hell?” I asked Hazov as we were descending deep into the surface of Ishnar in an elevator.
“That’s one way of putting it,” he responded. “But be warned though: Yah can still read your thoughts. We have yet developed the technology to block that ability. Other than that, he is completely contained within the chamber.”
“How does this chamber work?” Dr. Jackass asked.
“The walls of the chamber itself is reinforced with titanium-like nano tubing. This prevents porous openings all the way down to the quantum foam level. Even God can’t penetrate past that micro surface,” Hazov said.
“Fascinating,” The Doctor replied. “How did you obtain this technology? Forgive me, but technology on Earth appears to be beyond that of Ishnar and yet we haven’t developed those capabilities.”
“This technology was given to us by the ‘God Species’, as your captain calls it. This is why our technological capabilities appear to be so uneven.”
“Indeed, your culture appears to be from the Middle Ages of Earth, yet you’re using interplanetary radios, plasma weapons, and advanced forms language translation.” the Doctor said.
“Doctor,” I interrupted, “you’re about to meet God…or the first CONFIRMED alien life…and this is what you’re interested in?”
“Captain, I understand that you’re nervous, but it is part of Space Fleet’s mission to study extraterrestrial cultures.”
I rolled my eyes.
Finally the elevator stopped roughly 8 km underground. As we walked through the corridor to Yah’s holding area, Hazov continued to brief us. “A transparent piece of aluminum will allow you to see into the chamber,” he said. “Yah can take any form he chooses, but it’s only a mirage. While he can read your thoughts, you cannot communicate telepathically. You will have to speak with him over the monitors, and he will do the same for you.”
When we reached the guards holding large plasma rifles, Hazov stopped us and pinned a device onto Dr. Jackass and me. “This is just a precaution,” he stated, “but Yah is highly radioactive. The chamber should contain the radiation, but should any leak, this device will absorb it.”
Hazov could see I was shaking nervously. “Captain, you’ll be fine,” he said to me, “sure Yah played a big part in our histories. But he’s not actually God. While his material is not fully understood, insofar as we can tell he is made of normal matter just like you and me. He can’t hurt you. So don’t let him get to you.”
Hazov smiled and patted me on the shoulder. Then the doctor and I proceeded past the guards. We were escorted down a long corridor, where there at the very end was a large square chamber with a medium-sized window revealing a radiant orange glow inside.
I walked up to the window. But I couldn’t tell anything discerning inside, other than the orange mist. “Can he hear me?” I asked one of the guards.
He nodded. Then I opened my mouth.
“I am Captain William Kananga of the USV Carl Sagan. My first officer here is Dr. Sergei Jackass. We are members of Space Fleet representing Earth: a planet that I believe you are familiar with.”
Moments went by and there was no response. I looked back to the guard. “Are you sure he can hear me?” I asked him.
Then a strange voice came over the monitor.
“I know who you are,” the voice said. It wasn’t a deep voice, certainly not one I would associate with God. But it had resonance.
“Of course,” I replied. “I understand that you wish to return to Earth. What is your past associations there?”
“Siddhartha Gautama, Moshes, Mohammed, Yeshua: the Carpenter of Nazareth,” the voice replied.
“I’m afraid that I’m unfamiliar with Moshes.”
“You know him as Moses. I gave him the Ten Commandments.”
“Right. That’s why he was glowing as he came down Mt. Sinai. He was exposed to high levels of radiation.”
“That’s why I said that no man can see my face and live. I gave mankind scriptures to protect them from themselves.”
“Unfortunately those scriptures have been used to justify hate, discrimination, and war for thousands of years.”
“Yes, but humankind were savages when I found them. I gave them the power of reasoning to help them grow. Evolve.”
“What good that did them. What about the Holocaust? Nuclear war?”
“I had nothing to do with that. If I was permitted to stay on Earth, I could have prevented all of that.”
“You seem to want to take credit for humanity’s successes but want to evade responsibility for all of its ills and your failure in preventing them. Even your own “scriptures” make you look like the bad guy.”
“Mistakes were made, of course. And I’m prepared to answer for those. But humanity needs me now, more than ever. Earth has been destroyed in a nuclear war, has it not?”
I looked over to a concerned Dr. Jackass and back to the chamber. “I know what you’re trying to do,” I said to Yah. “But you’re not God. You’re not an all powerful, all loving deity. You’re a charlatan that wonders from planet to planet, taking advantage of vulnerable species.”
“I know that you beat off to Commander Mwangi this morning,” Yah said.
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“She’s going to have your child, ya know?” Yah continued. “You will be a better father to it than you ever were to the son you left behind on Earth to die in those nuclear bombs.”
“Commander Valdez is pregnant too. The late Commander Smashhouse is the father…”
“You’re not benevolent,” I interrupted. “You’re a sick, sad, and lonely being. Not worthy of our worship.”
“I am Alpha and Omega. The Beginning and the End. I shall have no other gods before me!” Yah declared as the orange glow morphed into a mirage of my late son.
“I’ve listened to enough of this hubris,” I said then stormed out of the corridor. As I walked passed the guards, I threw off the radiation device.
“Captain, are you all right?” the Doctor asked as he ran up behind me.
“What happened?” Hazov asked.
“Hazov, my recommendation is to sling that fucking thing in there right into the sun,” I said, then stormed into the elevator. Hazov and Jackass rushed in behind me. “Take me back to the surface!”
The two men were silent as I tried to cool down. As the elevator ascended, the doctor touched me on the arm.
“Dear God,” I prayed, “we’ve never talked before. Mostly because I’m pissed off at you for doing nothing about Earth’s suffering. But I have no one else to turn to. So if you are a just God, I pray that you keep this crew safe as we enter into uncharted waters. Honestly, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m a lost soul drifting among the stars. Give me the strength of courage. Give me the wisdom I need to guide this crew. Amen.”
Right then, Commander Mwangi entered my quarters. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb your prayer sir,” she said.
“I wasn’t praying,” I replied. “I was uh…I was beating off. You know, masturbating until ejaculation?”
“I thought you said your dick don’t work. You told the whole crew.”
“Well I like to cum soft. What do you have for me?”
“This is the full report on the condition of the Sagan.” She then handed me a tablet. “While she’s holding now, the hydrogen drive might not survive a return trip to Earth. I also report that we have cleared the Astroid Belt and are approaching Jupiter. The hibernation chambers are now fully functional.”
“Very good Commander. Thank you.”
I departed for the bridge where I found Dr. Jackass marveling at Jupiter. “What a sight,” he said.
“Doctor, we were here three weeks ago,” I replied.
“I know, but this planetary beauty never ceases to amaze me.”
I nodded. “Assemble the crew,” I ordered.
The crew gathered in the hibernation section, ready to be briefed. “We will be hibernation stasis for the next 50 years. During that time the hydrogen drive will slowly pick up speed. Eventually we’ll be traveling near the speed of light,” I stated. “Once we’ve arrived at Tau Ceti, braking thrusters will fire and we will be awakened from hibernation. Have a nice long rest.”
The crew and myself then began dressing down into our undergarments. This predictably caused a stir. “Damn Patel! Does that hog have a rank of its own?” Smashhouse joked, referring to Patel’s abnormally large penis protruding through his shorts. He then looked over to Hansen. “Hey Liz! Nice tits!”
“Commander Smashhouse,” I interrupted, “behave yourself. You’re a Space Fleet officer.”
“Pardon me sir,” he replied, “hibernation makes me a little nervous.”
After he said that, I began to admire Mwangi’s body in her Space Fleet issued underwear. That’s all I could think about when I climbed into my chamber. I began to wonder if my partial erection would stay throughout hibernation stasis. Wouldn’t that have been something? A guy that hadn’t had a boner in nearly 10 years would now have a permanent one for the next 50.
It probably would have been a record.
50 years later…
Unfortunately the boner didn’t last. But I figured that I’d get it next time.
The crew slowly woke up and climbed out of their chambers. Everyone except Smashhouse.
“What’s going on?” I asked Dr. Jackass.
“It appears sir that Smashhouse didn’t make it. He died during stasis.”
The crew was stunned. Valdez began to cry. This was my first death after 20 years in command.
“Funeral will be held at 1500 hours,” I said. “Everyone please attend.”
Dr. Jackass placed Smashhouse’s body in a makeshift casket and draped the flag of Space Fleet over it. The casket was put into the the jettison chamber where it was waiting to be released.
“Unfortunately I didn’t know Commander Smashhouse for long,” I said at his eulogy. “He dedicated his life to the service of Earth and the exploration of space. This crew loved him and his presence will be sorely missed. He was a brave man.”
Dr. Jackass then readied the chamber.
“From the cosmos whence we came. To the cosmos we shall return.”
Commander Smashhouse’s casket was then released into the vast, empty void beyond.
After the funeral, Mwangi and her two engineers began work on fixing the stasis chamber. “I can’t guarantee that this won’t happen again,” Mwangi said to me. “It’s going to take a long time before we can get these chambers fully calibrated.”
“You have all the time you need,” I replied, then patted her on the shoulder.
Dr. Jackass approached me alone as I was walking towards the bridge. “When are you going to tell the crew about Earth?” he asked.
“Doctor, they just lost a fellow crew member. Now’s not the time.”
“Don’t wait too long.”
As I came onto the bridge, Valdez announced that we were approaching the fourth planet from Tau Ceti…our destination.
It’s resemblance was strikingly similar to Earth’s.
“Send out a message on the same frequency as the extraterrestrial transmission. Let it state: ‘Your message has been received. We come from Earth and are currently orbiting your planet to establish peaceful communication. Please respond.’”
Valdez relayed the transmission and the bridge stood silent until we received a response.
Moments later, a message was coming in through the computer. What appeared to me as gibberish, Dr. Jackass gawked at in amazement. “My god,” he said.
“This appears to be a mix of Hebrew and possibly other Sumerian languages. Whatever it is, it’s definitely an Indo-European language.”
“How’s that possible? Can you decode it?”
“Running it through the computer now,” the Doctor said. He typed away frantically until the results were in. “I have it, sir. These are coordinates. A diplomatic party will be there waiting on us.”
“These guys don’t fuck around,” I said. “Alright, assemble the crew and initiate landing procedures.”
Everybody was gathered together once again. At that moment, I hadn’t yet processed the gravity of the situation. “Shortly we will begin landing on this planet, whatever the occupants call it,” I said to the crew. “You need not worry: surface conditions are extremely Earth-like. Dignitaries will be there to greet us when we land. The Doctor and I are both trained in diplomacy, and we handle this situation. Please be on your best behavior. Now strap in, we will be on the surface shortly.”
I sat on the bridge while Valdez steered the ship towards the surface. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This planet was like a second Earth.
Finally we landed on a prairie-like terrain. I walked towards the back of the ship with the Doctor where the bay doors were. I took a deep breath. “Open the doors,” I said.
We proceeded down the lowering platform, and there waiting on us were 15 humans. I was puzzled by this, but I pushed forward with the plan.
The Doctor and I walked up to the man in front. “I am Captain William Kananga. And this is my first officer, Dr. Sergei Jackass. We are members of Earth’s Space Fleet. We come in peace.”
The man smiled. “I am Hazov. And welcome to Ishna.”
He spoke perfect English.
“How can you understand us?” I asked.
“We were able to decipher your language by monitoring your communications.”
“Please Captain, we will go over all the details in time. But first, you must know why we invited you here.”
“We have undergone a massive revolution in the last 100 of your Earth years. We have taken control of Ishna by overcoming a being that both our planets are familiar with. We want to offer you a chance to bring to justice a Being so powerful that he forever altered your history.”
“I don’t understand.”
“We are offering you what was once called the One…Adonai…God.”
I love ghosts. Or, I should say, ghost videos on YouTube.
Do I believe in them? Not for a second. But they are fun as hell to watch.
Unfortunately I can’t talk about my love of paranormal and extraterrestrial videos because everyone has stupid options about the subject. Again, do ghosts exist? I’ve seen no compelling evidence for it.
Do intelligent extraterrestrial beings exist? Almost certainly. Have they visited earth? I’m open to the possibility but I gotta see some compelling evidence.
And that’s the extent of my opinion on ghosts and aliens.
But because everyone wants to believe, they’re willing to bend logic and intelligent comprehension of reality to support their belief. No one stops to think how insane this is:
See an object in the sky you don’t recognize? It must be inter dimensional aliens.
Did you blink and see a dark object in the corner of your eye? It’s gotta be ghosts (or, again, inter dimensional aliens).
Of course this massive leap in logic infects a lot of discourse. Our internet-poisoned brains permits this leap in our politics. For example: “the government once lied about some things, therefore they’re always lying about everything”, or “there are corrupt and bad cops, therefore do away with the police.” This leap undermines the complexities and nuances of an event or events and conclude all thinking, leaving the matter insufficiently examined.
This is just laziness.
To have a view, especially of the political nature, you gotta do some heavy lifting. Everyone wants to have an opinion, but no one wants to do the work in having one.