2061: Odyssey Three (1987) – Arthur C. Clarke

 

The third novel in the Odyssey series sees mankind continuing exploration of the solar system, with the return of Halley’s comet, and a scientific expedition/cruise ship heading to the infrequent solar visitor to attempt an historic landing. There are other parties at work though, eager eyes are turning to the clouded atmosphere of Europa, and a secret that may be hidden there. HAL’s last message sent from Discovery, warning humanity away from landing there has, so far, kept man at a respectable distance…

Until now.

Heywood Floyd, now well over a century old, but thanks to the effects of lower gravity, and his time traveling between the planets, he comes across as a healthy 65-year old, is aboard the Universe. She’s a top of the line ship that can make the journey to Jupiter in weeks instead of months. Gorgeously appointed, and sharing more in common with the seafaring ocean cruises of yesteryear than the Leonov seen in 2010, Heywood and a collection of scientists and celebrity types are planning on touring Halley up close, as she returns to the solar system.

Meanwhile, en route to Jupiter-turned-Lucifer, Universe’s sister ship, Galaxy, with Heywood’s grandson, Chris Floyd, serving as second officer, comes under trouble, when a hijacking causes problems, and requires a forced landing on the one place in the solar system man has been told not to… Europa.

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One of the scientific crew aboard Galaxy, Rolf van der Berg, has designs on examining a mysterious mountain that has appeared on the surface of Europa. Referring to it only as Lucy, van der Berg and Chris make an amazing discovery about the mountain. But the wonders don’t stop there… there is life on Europa, and it is being watched over by the Monolith.

The Universe is on a rescue mission, using Halley, herself to get them on their way quicker, before the minds behind the Monolith figure that Galaxy has been there too long, and Heywood is eager to secure the safety of his grandson.

As they race along to Europa, things are happening on the predominantly ocean planet… including an odd encounter for Chris.

For me, this one didn’t have quite the same sense of wonder that the previous books had. I don’t need complete revelations about the Monolith, its creators or the life that is developing on Europa, but I wanted a bit more of the sense of exploration. I love the stuff on Halley’s comet, but the political plot that gets revealed on the Universe seemed almost shoehorned in to give a reason for the landing on Europa.

Bowman and HAL make an all to brief appearance, hinting at what may have been on Jupiter before its transformation, and Heywood has some strange things happen to him once again as he closes in on the Jovian system.

All in all, not a bad book, and I don’t think Clarke ever wrote a bad book, but not quite as engrossing as the previous two novels…

Lets see what 3001: A Final Odyssey holds!

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