3001: The Final Odyssey

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:

“Just as 2010: Odyssey Two was not a direct sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, so this book is not a linear sequel to 2010. They must all be considered as variations on the same theme, involving many of the same characters and situations, but not necessarily happening in the same universe.”

Excerpt From
3001
Arthur C. Clarke

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.

2051: a space monstrosity (part II)

“I never go into space sober,” I told Dr. Jackass.

The USV Carl Sagan departed from Tranquility Bay en route to Tau Ceti. The doctor and myself were doing preparations before addressing the crew.

“I just don’t think introducing yourself to the crew is a good idea when you’re drunk,” the doctor replied.

“I’ll decide what’s best for this mission.”

The two of us got into our dress blues and proceeded to the conference area where the crew was assembled. “Good afternoon,” I said, “I am Captain William Kananga. You may call me Bill. The gentleman standing next to me is Dr. Sergei Jackass. He will serve as the executive, chief medical, and chief science officer of this mission. We are currently en route to Tau Ceti, approximately 4 light years away, which would make this the first interstellar mission outside of the Solar System.”

The crew looked at one another, startled by this revelation.

“The objective of this mission was previously classified, but now it can be told,” I continued. “Space Fleet has received a transmission from a planet orbiting Tau Ceti. The information contained in this transmission is of the most extraordinary nature. In fact, it has the potential to be the most significant finding in human history. There is now considerable evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. So our mission is to initiate first contact with these beings.”

I took a pause for dramatic purposes, then proceeded. “I’m sure you all have had time to meet with one another, but I will do some formal introductions. LT Commander Lauren Valdez is our Chief Pilot. LT Commander Dick Smashhouse, the co-pilot and navigator. Commander Nia Mwangi, Chief Engineer. LT Elizabeth Hanson and LT Arun Patel are also engineers serving under Commander Mwangi. In case you haven’t noticed, serving under my command are six very attractive people of both sexes: three males and three females from all corners of the Earth. This is done for the purposes of genetic diversity should we get stranded on this alien planet. Yes, we might have to fuck one another because this will be a long ass mission. Don’t worry about me though. My dick don’t work. Any questions?”

Commander Smashouse raised his hand. “Yes sir,” he asked, “can the Starship of the Imagination handle a mission of this magnitude? After all, she doesn’t have the best reputation.”

The crew laughed.

“Yes yes, I know about the reputation of the Sagan,” I replied. “But I assure you, with this new design and refit, she is now the finest ship in the Fleet. Anything else?”

Not a hand was raised.

“Then you have your orders. Once we reach the orbit of Jupiter, we will initiate the hibernation phase of this mission. DISMISSED.”

The crew disbursed to their respective stations. I met with Commander Mwangi to discuss the condition of the Sagan. “Centrifugal operations are fully functional,” she said, “our gravity is now comparable to Earth’s.”

“Very good,” I replied. “By the way, the Sagan is a good ship right? I hope I wasn’t blowing smoke up everyone’s ass.“

“Well,” she said and gave a long, uncomfortable pause. “I’ll just say that she can do the job. I’ll have a full report for you in the morning.”

“Thank you Commander. I’ll be in my quarters.”

I sat down at the edge of my bed and cracked open a beer. Dr. Jackass walked in moments later. “You should’ve packed liquor. It’ll last you longer,” he said.

“I did.”

“Are you feeling better now that you’re back in Space?”

“You know doctor, I know that you’re the Chief Medical officer, but I don’t need you to be my psychiatrist.”

“Jesus Bill! I’m just trying to have a conversation!”

“Well I’m still pissed off that Space Fleet has sent us on this wild goose chase. How can we initiate first contact with an alien species while Earth is an absolute dumpster fire?”

“Maybe a perfect world can never be achieved. But we should always pursue a better one.”

“Whatever Dr. Confucius.”

We were then interrupted by Commander Valdez over the intercom. “Sir, you have a subspace message coming in from Admiral Stockdale.”

“Put it through,” I groaned.

I put down the beer and booted up the computer. “To Captain Kananga: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY,” the message read. I tapped on the screen and a video of the Admiral popped up.

“Bill,” the Admiral said, “I regret to inform you that the war in North Africa has taken a turn. All nuclear powers have initiated Mutually Assured Destruction. The number of casualties is yet confirmed. The Fallout from this event will be considerable and all of Space Fleet personnel and equipment have been reassigned to assist in recovery efforts. In essence, Space Fleet is being disbanded. Therefore, this will be the final order from Space Fleet command: DO NOT abort mission. Repeat: DO NOT ABORT MISSION. The planet orbiting Tau Ceti likely has Earth-like conditions. It is advised to begin population initiatives there. Should that fail, use the hibernation chambers for as long as possible until radiation levels on Earth return to normal. This is a process that might take centuries. It is also advisable to not inform the crew of this development until after reaching Tau Ceti. It has been a pleasure serving with you Bill. Farewell.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

A Massive Leap in Logic

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.