Rendezvous with Rama (1973) – Arthur C. Clarke

I remember the first time I read this novel. My friend Dennis recommended it to me and conveniently enough, he had the entire series at hand, and I blazed through them. That was almost two decades ago, and I honestly don’t recall all the details of the story, but I know I loved the wonder and the mystery and found myself all too often disappointed in the too-real behaviour of humanity.

Recalling the mystery of Oumuamua back in 2020, this story has been on my mind for a while, so it was definitely time for a revisit.

When a silent, giant intergalactic ship slides into the solar system, its course is plotted and the colonies of man around the system race to find the ship that would be the closest to the interception point.

A crew and ship race to the massive visitor intent on exploring the mysteries of the craft. To learn what they can of its inhabitants if any, its creators, and its purpose.

Clarke doles out the mystery and the wonder, though his human characters are fairly cardboard, static, and interchangeable. The massive craft gives up a few of its secrets and simply leaves the reader, and the exploratory crew, wondering what they’ve encountered, and what it means for them.

The layout of Rama, the way Clarke describes it just fires the imagination, as the reader and the crew of the Endeavor attempt to explore as much of the fifty kilometre long and twenty kilometre wide cylinder as they can.

Clarke combines science and wonder, the interior of Rama uses centrifugal force to create a sense of gravity, there are structures, a cylindrical sea, and the knowledge of alien intelligence behind its construction, its intent and its design.

The story is fast-moving and engaging, and though the human characters aren’t much in the way of memorable, their adventure is.

And of course, even as the team explores the interior of Rama, the politicians, the optics, and the religious all interpret Rama for their own purposes, threats, and salvation. But some aren’t going to wait for a final decision or judgment, they’re going to take matters into their own hand before Rama finishes its journey.

I loved this book the first time I read it, and I loved it this time, but it also blurred with events that I recall from the sequels. It let me see it in a slightly new way. But at its heart, it’s the wonder, the mystery, and the sense of discovery of more out there amongst the stars that really fired my imagination as I turned page after page.

I’m going to have to keep reading this series and experience it all over again. Clarke sure knew how to hook the reader.

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