55 years ago “2001, A Space Odyssey” directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, premiered at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C.
“2001, A Space Odyssey” kennen we allemaal, is het niet door het boek dan toch door de film van Stanley Kubrick. Maar hoevelen van ons weten dat Clarke nog tal van andere boeken heeft geschreven die op een of andere manier met dit verhaal te maken hebben? Vooral op de Engelstalige Wikipedia staat dat allemaal goed uitgelegd en met knippen en plakken ben ikzelf tot deze eigen samenvatting gekomen.
Arthur C.Clarkes bekendste boek is inderdaad zonder enige twijfel “2001: A Space Odyssey”, waarop hij nog drie vervolgen zou schrijven. In het “afscheidswoord” op het einde van het vierde boek (“3001: The Final Odyssey”) schrijft hij dan ook het volgende: “Nooit iets uitleggen, nooit excuses maken kan een uitstekend advies zijn voor politici, Hollywoodse mogols en zakentycoons, maar een schrijver dient zijn lezers voorkomender te behandelen. Hoewel ik niet van plan ben me ergens voor te verontschuldigen, heeft de ingewikkelde wordingsgeschiedenis van het odyssee-viertal enige uitleg nodig.
Het begon allemaal rond Kerstmis 1948 – ja, 1948 (*) – met een kort verhaal van vierduizend woorden dat ik schreef voor een prijsvraag van de BBC. ‘De Waker’ (oorspronkelijke titel “The Sentinel”, RDS) beschreef de ontdekking van een kleine piramide op de maan, daar neergezet door een buitenaardse beschaving om de opkomst van de mensheid als tussen de planeten reizende soort af te wachten. Tot die tijd, zo werd gesuggereerd, waren we te primitief om van enig belang te zijn.
De BBC accepteerde mijn bescheiden poging niet, en het werd pas bijna drie jaar later gepubliceerd in de enige echte uitgave van 10 Story Fantasy (voorjaar 1951) – een tijdschrift dat, zoals de onvolprezen Encyclopedie of Science Fiction ironisch opmerkt, ‘voornamelijk in herinnering zal blijven door zijn zwakke rekenkunst (**)’.
‘De Waker’ bleef meer dan tien jaar op de plank liggen, tot Stanley Kubrick in het voorjaar van 1964 contact met me opnam en vroeg of ik ideeën had voor de ‘spreekwoordelijke’ (d.w.z. nog steeds niet bestaande) ‘goede sciencefictionfilm.’ In de loop van onze vele brainstormsessies, zoals verhaald in The Lost World of 2001, concludeerden we dat de geduldige wachter op de maan een goed beginpunt kon vormen voor ons verhaal. Uiteindelijk werd hij veel meer dan dat, terwijl ergens tijdens de productie de piramide overging in de inmiddels beroemde zwarte monoliet.
Om de Odyssee-reeks in perspectief te plaatsen, moeten we voor ogen houden dat toen Stanley en ik met de planning begonnen van wat we onderling ‘Hoe het zonnestelsel werd veroverd’ noemden, het ruimtetijdperk nauwelijks zeven jaar oud was, en dat geen mens ooit meer dan honderd kilometer van onze planeet verwijderd was geweest. Hoewel Kennedy had aangekondigd dat de Verenigde Staten van plan waren ‘in dit decennium’ naar de maan te gaan, kwam dit de meeste mensen nog voor als een verre toekomstdroom. Toen op 29 december 1965 het filmen begon in een ijzig koud Zuid-Londen (***), wisten we niet eens hoe het maanoppervlak er van dichtbij uitzag. We vreesden dan ook dat het eerste woord van een uitstappende astronaut ‘help!’ zou zijn, wanneer hij verdween in een talkpoederachtige laag maanstof. Over het geheel genomen zaten we er niet ver naast: alleen het feit dat onze maanlandschappen scherper piekten dan de echte – afgevlakt door eeuwenlang schuren van meteorietenstof – laat zien dat 2001 werd gemaakt voor liet Apollo-tijdperk.
Tegenwoordig lijkt het natuurlijk belachelijk dat wij ons reusachtige ruimtestations voorstelden, Hiltonhotels in een omloopbaan, en expedities naar Jupiter, in 2001 al. Het is nu moeilijk te beseffen dat er in de jaren zestig serieuze plannen waren voor permanente bases op de maan en landingen op Mars – rond 1990! Ik heb de vice-president van de Verenigde Staten in de studio van CBS, direct na de lancering van de Apollo 11, opgetogen horen uitroepen: ‘En hierna gaan we naar Mars!’
Achteraf mocht hij blij zijn dat hij niet de gevangenis in draaide. Dat schandaal, plus Vietnam en Watergate, is een van de oorzaken waardoor deze optimistische scenario’s nooit zijn verwezenlijkt.” (p.208-210)
The story of “The Sentinel” deals with the discovery of an artifact on Earth’s Moon left behind eons ago by ancient aliens. The object is made of a polished mineral and tetrahedral in shape, and is surrounded by a spherical forcefield. The first-person narrator speculates at one point that the mysterious aliens who left this structure on the Moon may have used mechanisms belonging “to a technology that lies beyond our horizons, perhaps to the technology of para-physical forces.“
For millennia (evidenced by dust buildup around its forcefield) the artifact has transmitted signals into deep space, but it ceases to transmit when the astronauts who discover it breach the forcefield. The narrator hypothesises that this “sentinel” was left on the moon as a “warning beacon” for the possible intelligent and spacefaring life that might develop on Earth. This quotation illustrates the idea, and its ramifications: “It was only a matter of time before we found the pyramid and forced it open. Now its signals have ceased, and those whose duty it is will be turning their minds upon Earth. Perhaps they wish to help our infant civilization. But they must be very, very old, and the old are often insanely jealous of the young.”
In the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” the operation of the sentinel is reversed. It is the energy of the sun, falling for the first time on the uncovered artifact, that triggers the signal that creatures from the Earth had taken the first step into space. Het verhaal van “2001: A Space Odyssey” valt dan ook uiteen in drie delen. De film begint in de oertijd, wanneer apen heer en meester zijn over de aarde. Een groepje apen vindt een rechthoekige monoliet en deze geeft hen de ‘vonk’ van menselijke intelligentie. Hierdoor leert de groep apen met gereedschappen omgaan, maar ze leren tevens oorlog en doodslag kennen.
Het tweede deel speelt zich af in 1999. Op de maan wordt dezelfde monoliet ontdekt in de Tycho-krater. Men komt er achter dat de monoliet afkomstig is uit de buurt van de planeet Jupiter.
Het derde deel van het verhaal gaat over astronaut David Bowman en zijn mederuimtereizigers aan boord van het ruimteschip Discovery One. Hun missie is de geheimzinnige monoliet op een maan van Jupiter (in het boek is dit Saturnus) te bestuderen. Daar komen ze evenwel nooit aan omdat de boordcomputer, HAL 9000, begiftigd met kunstmatige intelligentie, meent de bemanning te moeten vermoorden om de missie te redden. HAL, wiens naam volgens velen (****) een knipoog is naar IBM (de letters komen in het alfabet telkens juist vóór de overeenkomstige bij IBM) lijkt een persoon met een diepe warme stem die men kan bevelen of waarmee men gewoon een gesprek kan hebben. HAL doodt op eigen initiatief de wetenschappers die “ingevroren” in couveuses liggen wegens de lange reis naar Jupiter. Bowman weet HAL 9000 uit te schakelen, maar op die manier is hij wel de enige die de landing van het ruimteschip op de maan van Saturnus/Jupiter meemaakt.
“De kracht van de monoliet doet hem transcenderen,” staat er op Wikipedia, waar ik deze samenvatting vandaan heb gehaald. Deze metamorfose werd in de film omschreven als “een visuele LSD-trip“, want het waren tenslotte the sixties, nietwaar?
Na deze trip komt Bowman terecht in een sterrenstelsel ver voorbij onze melkweg. Hij lijkt in een mooie hotelkamer te staan die is samengesteld uit afgekeken televisiebeelden, dit om hem op zijn gemak te stellen. In een bed ziet hij zijn toekomstige zelf. Bowman gaat slapen. Tijdens zijn slaap worden zijn geest en herinneringen uit zijn lichaam verwijderd. Hij wordt gereconstrueerd als een nieuw wezen behept met een eeuwig leven dat leeft en reist tussen de sterren: een zogenaamd “Star Child” (sterrenkind). Het sterrenkind keert terug naar ons zonnestelsel en kijkt uit over de Aarde…
Toen het boek en de film 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968 uitkwamen was de mogelijkheid van een vervolg nooit bij Clarke opgekomen, zegt hijzelf, maar hij deed het tóch…
The book “The Lost Worlds of 2001”, published in 1972, contains material that did not make it into the book or film. Daarnaast schreef Clarke nog een aantal vervolgen op 2001, waarvan het eerste (uit 1982), “2010: Odyssey Two”, eveneens verfilmd is in 1984 door Peter Hyams. Clarke was happy with the film version but was not directly involved in the production (although he did appear in a cameo). Kubrick had no involvement in any of the later projects.
So unlike “2001: A Space Odyssey” the novel and the screenplay were not written simultaneously, and consequently there are significant differences between the two. In one aspect, a part of this novel has similarities with a much older short story by Clarke, “History Lesson” (1949). This two-part story speculates on the cooling of the Sun as a “doomsday scenario” for Earth and an evolutionary advent for Venus.
The first part of the story is told from the perspective of a tribe of nomadic humans in a future where Earth has entered a final ice age. The tribe is traveling toward the equator ahead of glaciers that are descending from the North Pole, but discovers, when they arrive in the last hospitable region of the planet, that glaciers from the South Pole have already almost reached them. The tribe carries with it a few relics from the mid-21st century which it considers sacred, although the functions of the various objects have been forgotten. Before the ultimate extinction of the human species, the relics are safely relocated to a mountain that stands between the two advancing bodies of ice.
The second part of the story is told from the perspective of a race of Venusian reptiles who have evolved into intelligent beings capable of space travel in the 5000 years since the cooling of the Sun. The Venusians travel to Earth and recover the relics of the last tribe of humans, now the only remnants of civilization not buried under ice. The title of the story comes from the attempts of the Venusian scientist, to reconstruct the life and times of erect bipeds that once walked on the Third Planet through the analysis of one of the last relics of mankind — a film reel that apparently contains a Disney or Warner Brothers animated cartoon short.
Back to “2010”, both the book and the movie are set nine years after the failure of the Discovery mission to Jupiter. Note that the novel version of 2001 featured the journey to Saturn instead: Clarke acknowledges this retroactive continuity in his author’s foreword. A joint Soviet-American crew (the Soviet Union did not dissolve until 9 years after this book was written), including Heywood Floyd from 2001, on the Soviet spaceship Alexei Leonov (named after the famous cosmonaut) arrives to discover what went wrong with the earlier mission, to investigate the monolith in orbit around the planet, and to resolve the disappearance of David Bowman. They hypothesize that much of this information is locked away on the now-abandoned Discovery One craft.
The Soviets have an advanced new “Sakharov” drive (a reference to the physicist Andrei Sakharov) which will propel them to Jupiter ahead of the Americans Discovery Two mission, so Floyd is assigned to the Leonov crew as part of a joint mission. However, a Chinese “space station” rockets out of Earth orbit, revealing itself to be an interplanetary spacecraft named the Tsien (a reference to Tsien Hsue-shen) which is also aimed at Jupiter.
The Leonov crew comment on the kamikaze-like method of the Chinese team, but Floyd eventually surmises that due to the large water content of Europa, they are destined to land there and use the water content to refuel their tanks. The Tsien’s daring mission ends in failure, when it is destroyed by an indigenous life-form on Europa. The only survivor radios the story to the Leonov; it is presumed that he dies when his spacesuit air supply runs out.
The Leonov eventually performs a rendezvous with the Discovery, and Hal’s creator, Dr. Chandra, on the mission, reactivates the HAL 9000 computer to ascertain the cause of his earlier aberrant behavior. A sequence of scenes follows the explorations of David Bowman, who has been transformed into a non-corporeal, energy-based life-form, much like the aliens controlling the monoliths. During his journey, the avatar of Bowman travels to the Earth, making contact with significant individuals from his human past: he visits his mother and brushes her hair (shortly before she dies), and he appears to his ex-girlfriend on her television screen.
In the novel, the aliens are using Bowman as a probe to learn about humankind. He then returns to the Jupiter system to explore beneath the ice of Europa, where he finds aquatic life-forms, and under the clouds of Jupiter, where he discovers gaseous life-forms. Both are primitive, but the aliens deem the Europan creatures to have evolutionary potential.
An apparition of Bowman appears before Floyd (shaping itself from dust), warning him that they must leave Jupiter within fifteen days. Floyd has difficulty convincing the rest of the crew, at first, but then the monolith vanishes from orbit and a mysterious dark spot on Jupiter begins to form and starts growing. HAL’s telescope observations reveal that the Great Black Spot is in fact a vast population of monoliths, increasing at a geometric rate, which appear to be eating the planet.
The Leonov crew devises a plan to use the Discovery as a “booster rocket”, enabling them to return to Earth ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, HAL and the Discovery will be trapped in Jupiter’s orbit, with insufficient fuel to escape. The crew are worried that HAL will have the same neuroses on discovering that he will be abandoned yet again, and Chandra must convince HAL that the human crew is in danger. The Leonov crew make a hasty exit from Jupiter, observing as the swarm of monoliths spread to engulf Jupiter.
Through a mechanism the novel only partially explains, these monoliths increase Jupiter’s density until the planet achieves nuclear fusion, becoming a small star. In the novel, this obliterates the primitive life-forms which had inhabited the Jovian atmosphere, which the Monoliths’ controllers had deemed less worthy than the aquatic life of Europa. As Jupiter is about to transform, Bowman returns to Discovery to give HAL a last order to carry out. HAL begins repeatedly broadcasting the message “ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE.” (The movie version adds the words “USE THEM TOGETHER. USE THEM IN PEACE”, as part of its heightened Cold War emphasis.)
The creation of the new star, which Earth eventually names “Lucifer”, destroys Discovery entirely. However, HAL’s artificial intelligence is removed from Discovery’s computer core and transformed into the same kind of lifeform as David Bowman, and becomes his companion. The book ends with a brief epilogue, which takes place in AD 20,001.
By this time, the Europans have evolved into a species that has developed a primitive civilization, most likely with assistance from a monolith. They are not described in detail, though they are said to have “tendril”-like limbs. They regard the star Lucifer (formerly the planet Jupiter) as their primary Sun, referring to “our” sun as “The Cold Sun”.
Though their settlements are concentrated primarily in the hemisphere of Europa which is constantly bathed in Lucifer’s rays, some Europans have begun in recent generations to explore the Farside, the hemisphere facing away from Lucifer, which is still covered in ice. There they may witness the spectacle of night, unknown on the other side of Europa, when the Cold Sun sets.
The Europans who explore the Farside have been carefully observing the night sky and have begun to develop a mythology based on their observations. They believe (correctly) that Lucifer was not always there. They believe that the Cold Sun was its brother and was condemned to march around the sky for a crime.
The Europans also see three other major bodies in the sky. One seems to be constantly engulfed in fire, and the other two have lights on them which are gradually spreading. These three bodies are the moons Io, Callisto and Ganymede, the latter two of which are presently being colonized by humans. Apparently, humans have been attempting to explore Europa ever since Lucifer was created in 2010. However, none of these attempts have been successful.
Every spaceship or probe that has attempted to land on Europa has been destroyed in the atmosphere. The debris from every ship and probe falls to the surface of the planet and the debris from some of the first ships to be destroyed is venerated by the Europans, in a manner similar to the Cargo Cults of Earth.
Finally, there is a Monolith on the planet, which is worshiped more by the Europans than anything else. The Europans assume (correctly) that the Monolith is what keeps humans at bay. Dave Bowman and HAL 9000 lie dormant in this Monolith. The Monolith is the guardian of Europa, and will continue to prevent contact between Humans and Europans for as long as it sees fit.
In 1988 Clarke wrote “2061: Odyssey Three”. Because the Odyssey series is closely concerned with Jupiter and its moons, Clarke had originally intended to delay writing a third book until the Galileo mission to the planet had returned its findings. However, the probe’s launch was delayed in the aftermath of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster so that it would not arrive at Jupiter until 1995. Deciding not to wait, Clarke instead took his inspiration from the approach of Comet Halley in 1986 and focused his sequel on the comet’s future return, in 2061.
When the Leonov returned to Earth, Heywood Floyd (whose marriage had broken up while he was on the Leonov) suffered an accident and had to be shipped up to the orbital space hospital Pasteur for care. His recovery took longer than expected and he became a permanent resident of the space station after finding that his body could no longer handle Earth-level gravity. At the time the novel takes place, Floyd is one of only two remaining survivors of the Leonov mission. His son Chris, who also worked in astronautics, had died a number of years previously in the Copernicus disaster, leaving behind his own son, also named Chris. Now an adult, Chris Floyd II works aboard the spacecraft Galaxy, and he has not seen his grandfather in years.
Between 2010 and 2061, there have been several advancements, both technological and political. The USA, USSR, and China are now at peace with each other, all nuclear weapons are now under international control, and there is now a Planetary President (a former monarch, Edward VIII — his country of origin is not specified). The black population of South Africa had rebelled in the 2030s and formed the United States of Southern Africa (USSA). The white population of South Africa had seen this coming and mostly fled to Europe, taking most of the country’s wealth with them and leaving the black population to rebuild the economy, which they did in a matter of weeks by use of diamonds (it is worth noting that this book was published in 1987, at which time South Africa was still federated and apartheid was still in force).
In the wake of the breakthrough discovery of a new form of muon-catalyzed fusion, space travel has undergone many startling advancements; with the advent of fusion-powered spacecraft, large-scale interplanetary travel is now commercially viable. The largest such corporation is Tsung Spacelines, run by Hong Kong billionaire Sir Lawrence Tsung (the manufacturers of the crafts Cosmos, Galaxy and — most recently — Universe).
Strangest of all, there has been a startling development on Europa: an enormous mountain has sprung up out of nowhere. No one is sure of the origin of “Mount Zeus”; being asymmetrical, it cannot be a volcano. In 2061, at the age of 103, Floyd is chosen as one of several “celebrity guests” to come aboard the Universe for the first-ever human landing on the surface of Halley’s Comet, which will shortly be making its periodic pass through the solar system. Other celebrities on the voyage include septuagenarian actress Yva Merlin (most famous for her roles as Josephine Bonaparte in “Napoleon” and as Scarlett O’Hara in a remake of “Gone With the Wind”), writer Margaret M’Bala (known for her book on Greek mythology “The Passions of the Gods” – sometimes derisively called “Olympic Lusts”), astronaut Clifford Greenburg (the first man to land on Mercury), symphony conductor and composer Dimitri Mihailovich, and celebrity “pop-scientist” Victor Willis. The captain of the Universe is Captain Smith (as was the captain of RMS Titanic, a fact which is noted by characters in the story as the Universe is compared to the Titanic).
Meanwhile, there is a team of scientists on Ganymede who are working on terraforming the former moon. Scientist Rolf van der Berg, a second-generation Afrikaner refugee, studies pictures of Mount Zeus and determines that it is in fact one enormous diamond. He communicates his discovery to his uncle Paul Kreuger, speaking in Afrikaans as a security measure because it is now an endangered language. They decide that van der Berg will get aboard the Galaxy on their flyby of Europa in order to try and see if he is correct.
However, their exchange is discovered both by SHAKA (a secret militant organization in the USSA, named for Shaka) and ASTROPOL (similar to Interpol). SHAKA sends an operative called Rose McCullen onto Galaxy undercover as a steward and an unknown organization — presumably ASTROPOL — approaches Chris Floyd II on Ganymede and tells him to “keep his eyes open.”
As Galaxy nears Europa, Rose McCullen delivers coffee to the bridge and then hijacks the ship, sealing the cockpit and ordering Second Officer Chang at gunpoint to pilot Galaxy down to the moon’s surface, where, after Chang does not exactly follow Rosie’s directions, it splashes down into Europa’s ocean, the Sea of Galilee. Having essentially accomplished her mission, Rosie then shoots herself. Other crew members throw her body overboard: a large creature rises to the surface of the ocean, swallows the body, vomits, and dies. The crew conclude that Europan biology and Earth biology are incompatible: they won’t be able to forage there after exhausting the ship’s stores.
Universe receives the news that Galaxy is marooned on Europa and that they need to undertake a rescue mission. After fueling itself from a geyser on Halley’s Comet, Universe heads for Europa. Meanwhile, Galaxy’s Captain Laplace steps down for the acting captain Lee, who is a professional sailor. Lee pilots Galaxy through the water to come to the shore of a small—and rather dismal—island named Haven. Captain Laplace takes command again, and accepts the suggestion that Rolf van der Berg and Chris Floyd II take the shuttle William Tsung or Bill Tee (named after Sir Lawence Tsung’s son William) to study Mount Zeus, the wreck of the Chinese spacecraft Tsien and the enormous monolith lying on its side at the border between the dayside and nightside, dubbed the Great Wall.
Van der Berg and Chris take the Bill Tee to Mount Zeus. Up close, van der Berg relays a message to his uncle Paul through Ganymede stating “LUCY IS HERE”, verifying that Mount Zeus is indeed one large diamond. The code word “Lucy” was chosen both in reference to the mini-sun Lucifer and to an article in the journal Nature in 1981 hypothesizing that the cores of Uranus and Neptune were in fact diamonds the size of Earth (caused by the compression of carbon), with the hypothesis making a logical extension to Jupiter. The article was subtitled “Diamonds in the Sky?” in reference to the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.
Mount Zeus is a fragment of Jupiter’s core which survived the creation of Lucifer and later impacted on Europa. On the Universe, the celebrity guests discuss the mystery surrounding Dave Bowman and the monoliths, and whether they would be allowed to land on Europa to rescue Galaxy’s crew. Floyd follows Yva Merlin’s suggestion that he simply try to call Bowman on the radio. That night he has a strange dream in which he sees the monolith floating at the foot of his bed.
The Bill Tee flies by Tsien, which has been completely stripped of its metals, and on to the Great Wall. In the shadow of the Great Wall they find a deserted Europan village made up of igloo-like structures. An image of Heywood Floyd appears to Chris in the same way that Dave Bowman appeared to Floyd in 2010, telling him that the Universe was coming and that the Europans had left until “the wind blows the poison away.” Van der Berg thinks that Chris is crazy until he realizes that the heat of the engine cracked the steam exhaust of the Bill Tee into hydrogen and oxygen, oxygen being poisonous to Europans.
The shuttle’s fuel is expended so they wait there until the Universe arrives. Chris contacts Universe and finds that his grandfather is not dead at all, but alive and well. The crew are rescued and brought to Ganymede, where they watch via satellite as Mount Zeus, which has been steadily sinking, finally disappears beneath the Europan surface. Soon thereafter, Paul Kreuger writes a follow-up article for Nature (80 years after the original article’s publication), stating that Mount Zeus was a mere fragment of Jupiter’s core and it is almost certain that many more such large pieces of diamond are currently in orbit around Lucifer, and proposing that a program be initiated immediately to collect these enormous quantities of diamond and put them to use.
Floyd and Chris II become close again and both become friends with van der Berg. They talk about how Floyd called Bowman on the radio and Chris asks: “Did you ever get a reply?” Floyd almost tells his grandson about the monolith in his cabin, but does not after rationalizing that it was probably a dream.
As it turns out, it was not a dream at all. The monolith duplicated Floyd’s consciousness: there are now two Heywood Floyds — one is a normal human who has just found a new lease on life and the other is an immortal being who resides with Dave Bowman and HAL inside the Great Wall. The three immortal beings converse and Floyd finds out that the impact of Mount Zeus set Europa’s life back by years and caused the extinction of many promising species. HAL and Dave are also worried that the collision might have damaged the monolith and so upset its functioning. In fact the impact knocked the monolith over. Dave tells him of how the Jovians had to be exterminated in the creation of Lucifer so that the Europans might survive and tells Floyd that they have less than a millennium to work in.
In the epilogue, the star Lucifer stops shining in 3,001, while in Manhattan “the monolith awakes” (referring to the original monolith discovered on the moon in 2001, which was taken to Manhattan as a monument). It is also indicated that humans have found more quantities of diamond from the former Jupiter and used it to create space elevators and an orbital ring connecting them, as suggested by Paul Kreuger in his article.
This idea will later be a central concept in “3001: The Final Odyssey”, 1997. The book begins with a brief prologue. The prologue describes the aliens who created the Monoliths. As they explored the galaxy, they saw that few intelligent species ever successfully evolved. Therefore, they catalyzed the evolution of intelligent species wherever they went, including Earth.
Upon reaching Earth, they performed experiments on many species to encourage the development of intelligence. Then they left, leaving the Monoliths behind. After visiting Earth, the aliens continued to evolve — eventually into non-corporeal beings. Meanwhile, back in the solar system, the Monoliths continued to watch over humanity. However, the Monoliths were capable of degenerating and acting independently of their original programming.
“3001” follows the adventures of Frank Poole, one of the astronauts who was murdered by HAL 9000 in “2001: A Space Odyssey”. His body is discovered after drifting in space for a millennium and brought back to life, exposure to vacuum having preserved him sufficiently for the advanced medical technology of the time to be able to revive him. He then explores the Earth of 3001, notable features of which are the BrainCap, a technology which interfaces computers directly with the human brain, genetically engineered dinosaur servants, and four huge space elevators spaced around the Earth’s Equator connected by a spaceport ring in geostationary orbit.
Humanity has also colonized Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Callisto and performed manned missions to Neptune. In the 26th century, the monolith in Africa (dubbed TMA-0) that kickstarted human intellectual evolution, has been discovered. TMA-1, the monolith found on the moon, had earlier been brought to Earth in 2006 and erected in front of the United Nations Building in New York City. In the course of the novel, it is determined that following the events of “2010: Odyssey Two” the Jupiter monolith sent a report back to its “superior” 450 light years away and is about to receive its orders on how to deal with humanity (since the report would take 450 years to reach the superior and the orders 450 years to come back).
Presumably, the monolith was empowered to obliterate the nascent biosphere of Jupiter but needed a higher authority’s approval to obliterate the technological civilization on Earth. There is considerable worry that the judgment, which was based on the monolith’s observations of humanity up to 2001, will be negative. The entire human race, then, may be in danger of being obliterated by the aliens, just as the Jovian life-forms discovered by David Bowman were deliberately destroyed.
Frank manages to conscript Bowman and HAL, who have fused into a new entity — ‘Halman’ — and now reside in the monolith’s computational matrix, to infect the monolith with a computer virus in an attempt to avert the potential apocalypse. Just as the humans feared, the Monolith does indeed receive orders to exterminate mankind, and it begins to duplicate itself many hundreds of millions of times over. These millions of monoliths assemble themselves into two separate screens in front of the sun and Lucifer to prevent all vital light and heat from reaching Earth and its colonies. The intent is to shut down the entire Terran biological life-cycle. However, the Monolith was already infected with Halman’s virus at the time it began duplicating itself, and fifteen minutes after the screens are formed, all the Monoliths disintegrate, including TMA-0 and TMA-1.
Halman manages to download its combined personalities into a petabyte-capacity holographic 3D storage medium and thus survives the disintegration of the monoliths. However, it is infected in the process with the virus it itself created and is subsequently sealed by human scientists within a special containment facility used to house various chemical, biological, and cybernetic weapons, where it will presumably be stored until such time as humans (or others) choose to release it. At the close of the story, Poole and the other humans land on Europa and attempt to start peaceful relations with the primitive native Europans. Apparently, the creators of the Monoliths had been watching humanity. They decide that they should not determine humanity’s fate until “the Last Days”.
Personally I think that “3001” is the most readable of all the Odyssey-books. Not in the least because of the “resurrection” of Frank Poole. This enables the writer to explain what happened thousand years earlier, not only as far as the story goes, but even more so in regard to the new scientific findings. And of course I’m very happy that in 3001 cycling is still popular, be it on the moon! (p.188 in the Dutch version)
The anonymous writer in Wikipedia is keen to draw the attention to differences between “3001: The Final Odyssey” and earlier books, but it has to be said that he was greatly helped by… Arthur C.Clarke himself who admits to these “errors” in his “sources and thanksgiving”, following the actual text of “3001”.
Thus it will be noticed that the portrayal of the monoliths is notably different from that in the earlier novels. In particular, the 2001 monolith was capable of faster-than-light transmission and was generally portrayed as both less malevolent and more of a thinking entity than the one seen in this novel (in particular, Dave Bowman’s transcendence as a star child is now explained as a mundane case of being uploaded into a computer).
In “2010” an apparition of Bowman appeared before Floyd (shaping itself from dust), warning him that they must leave Jupiter within fifteen days. Floyd had difficulty convincing the rest of the crew, which would have been much easier had he had the video recording of the incident shown to Poole by Dr. Allister Kim in “3001”.
The very end of “2010”, entitled simply “20,001”, could not have happened as portrayed because of the disappearance of the monoliths at the end of 3001. Additionally, some of the dates are changed. The USSR is acknowledged as having crumbled in 1991, whereas in the earlier three books it lasts well into the 21st century. Frank Poole’s birth date is set at 1996; the Discovery mission is pushed forward to the 2030s and the Leonov mission to the 2040s, when in the earlier three books, they were in 2001 and 2010, respectively.
Finally, Poole remarks that by the 2020s his world had learned to tap unlimited vacuum energy, when the previous books had established only cold fusion as the highest source of power by 2061; vacuum energy would have made the plasma drive and fission reactor on the original Discovery obsolete a decade prior to the ship’s construction (under the new “3001” dates).
However, since “2010: Odyssey Two” Clarke has consistently stated that each of the Odyssey novels takes place in its own separate parallel universe — this is demonstrated by the facts that the monoliths are still in existence in the year 20,001 at the end of “2010: Odyssey Two” and that Floyd is no longer part of the trinity formed at the end of “2061: Odyssey Three”. These parallel universes are a part of Clarke’s retroactive continuity.
Ronny De Schepper
(gebaseerd op diverse bijdragen in Wikipedia, zowel in de Nederlandstalige als de Engelstalige versie)
(*) Clarke legt hier wellicht zo de nadruk op, omdat natuurlijk ook dat andere toekomstverhaal, “1984” van George Orwell, dat jaar zijn ontstaan kent (vandaar trouwens de titel, die gewoon een omkering is van 1948).
(**) Er stonden namelijk dertien verhalen in en het verhaal van Clarke verschijnt er onder de titel “Sentinel of Eternity”. Wikipedia weet verder nog te melden dat “The Sentinel” (published 1982) is also the title of a collection of Arthur C. Clarke short stories, including the eponymous “The Sentinel”, “Guardian Angel” (the inspiration for his “Childhood’s End”), “The Songs of Distant Earth” and “Breaking Strain” (the inspiration for Arthur C. Clarke’s “Venus Prime”). In addition, the short story “Encounter at Dawn” — short story first published in 1953 as “Encounter in the Dawn” – contains elements of the first section of the film, in which the ancestors of humans are apparently given an evolutionary “nudge” by extraterrestrials. The opening part of another Clarke story, “Transience”, has plot elements set in about the same time in human history, but is otherwise unrelated.
(***) “In Shepperton, door Marsmannen vernietigd in een van de meest dramatische scènes in het meesterwerk van Wells, The War of the Worlds.” (voetnoot van Clarke zelf)
(****) Clarke zelf schrijft in het dankwoord, volgend op “3001”: “Dank aan IBM, die me de prachtige kleine Thinkpad 755CE cadeau deed waarmee dit boek is geschreven. Ik had vele jaren last van het geheel ongegronde gerucht dat de naam HAL was ontleend aan IBM, door de letters een plaats te verschuiven. In een poging deze mythe uit het computertijdperk te ontzenuwen., ging ik zelfs zo ver dat ik het door dr. Chandra, de uitvinder van HAL, in 2010: Odyssey Two liet ontkennen. Maar onlangs werd me verzekerd dat Big Blue zich absoluut niet ergerde aan de associatie en er nu heel trots op is. Dus laat ik voortaan elke poging na om dit recht te zetten, en ik feliciteer alle deelnemers aan HALS ‘verjaardagsfeest’ aan (uiteraard) de Universiteit van Illinois, Urbana, 12 maart 1997.” (p.206)