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Rama II (1996)

Rama II (1996)
3.65 of 5 Votes: 5
2290032042 (ISBN13: 9782290032046)
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Rama II (1996)
Rama II (1996)

About book: Arthur C. ClarkeGentry LeeRama IIBantam, Paperback, 1990. 12mo. ix, 466 pp. Foreword Rama Revisited by Arthur Clarke [v-ix].First published, 1989.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Alas, it is true. I had read tons of negative reviews but somehow I didn't believe the book could be that bad. Well, it isn't. It's worse. Much worse!Let me say it bluntly in two short sentences. Rama II is no science fiction. It's an ordinary pulp fiction.The most probable reason for this monstrous incongruity is that, very much unlike its legendary predecessor, this book was not written by Arthur Clarke at all. I know this is a very serious accusation, but I am going to back it up. Having previously read no fewer than seven novels by Arthur Clarke, published in the course of more than four decades, I do claim, perhaps presumptuously, that I know something about his writing style. To be sure, there may be certain immaturity in Childhood's End (1953) or some dull pages in 3001: The Final Odyssey (1997), but on the whole Clarke's writing is remarkably consistent in terms of both style and content, the combination reaching its absolute peak in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Rendezvous with Rama (1973). It is not for nothing that Rama II is twice longer than the latter. The style is as overloaded with insignificant trivia and irrelevant digressions - from tedious descriptions of surroundings and electronic displays to page after page of memories and reveries - and as long-winded, clumsy, dry and tedious as Clarke's has never been. What is infinitely worse, the scientific part and the philosophical depth have been almost entirely dispensed with. And for what? Petty rivalries and even pettier jealousies, shady deals, nasty intrigues: all the stuff that makes for a perfect space version of The Bold and the Beautiful. I have yet to read a book by Arthur Clarke in which he neglects the individual and social impact of the events he describes. But I have never read one in which this is at the expense of ideas and depth. Well, this is precisely the case here.In his preface Arthur Clarke declares his own surprise that he has agreed to collaboration with another author on a work of fiction, but he makes a poor case when he tries to explain why he did so. He is evasive about who did most of the writing, but I would venture an informed guess about that. Apart from very occasional couple of sentences or a short paragraph, I am perfectly convinced that Arthur Clarke wrote nothing of this book. Nor do I think he contributed many ideas to it. In short, neither in terms of content nor in terms of style has Rama II anything to do Rendezvous with Rama, or any other novel by Arthur Clarke I have read. Further in this review, therefore, I will refer to Rama II as solely written by Gentry Lee.To say that the mind-bending, mind-boggling and mind-blowing mystery and grandeur of the first book is entirely missing from its sequel is a gross understatement. It takes some hundred pages or so for the first encounter with Rama II to happen at all. And when it finally does happen, you are given - a party with a lot of drinking, murder out of the blue and a highly ''dramatic'' termination of unwanted pregnancy. Further during the exploration of the second alien ship the human race has come into contact with you have several gruesome deaths more, trivial medical problems, crew meetings full of inane ramblings, teenage-like flirtations, hunting of biots (biorobots that is), blackmail, sexism (or feminism, to be exact; in either case: don't you know this is totally obsolete nowadays, Gentry?), and a good deal of media hype. Yes, that's right: the most important thing about the exploration of Rama II is the live coverage that causes mass hysteria on Earth and the pretty face of Francesca Sabatini, a world famous journalist that just happens to be one of the main characters. Only in the second half of the novel is there a few hints of something significantly new inside Rama, unknown from the first book, but it is as pedestrian and laboriously written as anything else. As far as breath-taking descriptions, provocative ideas and philosophical speculation are concerned, Rama II is just about on the level of The Da Vinci Code. Only it is much less entertaining and, since it is supposed to be a sequel to a classic, it promises to be a lot more than mere entertainment. It delivers nothing but excruciating tediousness.I hope Clarke detractors who constantly complain about the lack of characterisation in his books would be satisfied with Rama II. There is hardly anything else here. Ironically enough, for all of Gentry's prolixity, the major characters here, though fairly well-drawn, are entirely one-dimensional. David Brown is a presumptuous, dishonest, temperamental and narrow-minded prima donna (the right make-up for an eminent scientist indeed!), Francesca Sabatini is unscrupulous, promiscuous, self-absorbed and vindictive (an epic bitch if there ever was one), Nicole des Jardins is honest, sentimental, saintly and straightforward (an epic saint if there ever was one, and just as dull as her nemesis), General O’Toole is an entirely conventional, yet thoroughly unconvincingly drawn, religious devotee (another obsolete concept, Gentry; and vastly inferior result to Boris Rodrigo, the devotee in the first book), Richard Wakefield is an amazing but anti-social computer geek whose greatest passion is making mini-robots that recite his beloved Shakespeare (another opportunity for Gentry to digress and show off his wide knowledge in a vain attempt to compensate for his lack of specific scientific one, let alone imagination to use it): so they are in the beginning, so they remain until the end. At every possible opportunity, Gentry goes back and explores their pasts with intolerable passion for trivial and perfectly irrelevant episodes; these range from lots of African spiritualism and magical rituals all the way to paedophilia and rape. The novel is set seventy years after the encounter with the first Rama, during which mankind has suffered a massive crisis called The Great Chaos. Apparently Gentry thought this sufficient to show us that human race, far from gaining any wisdom at all, has actually gone quite a bit backwards.Nor is the dialogue any better: trite, silly, stilted, artificial, seldom approaching anything like humour or drama. If that is possible, the dialogue only makes the character even more artificial and unbelievable. Just about the most dramatic thing Gentry can think of is a most embarrassing conversation about the unknown father of Nicole's daughter. Jeez, Gentry, give me break, will you! Mankind - or any other kind for that matter - at the beginning of space exploration should know a lot better than that. As for the humour, one of the most painfully missing components, consider the following excerpt:''It must be your blouse,'' General Borzov answered with a start. ''For just a moment I had the distinct impression that you were a tiger poised to pounce on a hapless antelope or gazelle. Maybe it's old age. Or my mind has started playing tricks on me.''Imagine Arthur Clarke writing flirtatious junk like that! To cut the long story short, the only remarkable thing in Rama II is Rama itself. The little new about its interior or its purpose is overwhelmingly trivial and incomparably inferior to anything in the first book. If it was not for the bold advertisement on the front cover as ''a sequel'', Rama II might have received one full star because of this slender value. But as continuation of Rendezvous with Rama, it really doesn't deserve even that.(By the way, one funny coincidence. It so happened that in parallel with Rama II I have read also The Fountains of Paradise, first published in 1979 and one of Clarke's finest novels. What a contrast indeed! Comparisons, of course, are out of question. You might just as well try to compare a country chapel with the Cologne cathedral.)I might add that the problem, as it should be obvious by now, is not in the sequel per se. After all, there is a fine precedent in Clarke's bibliography: 2001: A Space Odyssey. None of the three sequels Clarke himself wrote is on par with the first book, which is in no need of any sequel for that matter, but they are all fine books, beautifully written and containing a great deal of provocative scientific concepts and philosophic ideas, and I certainly don't share the general negativity towards even the weakest member of the series (the last book). Rendezvous with Rama is just as self-sufficient and full of compelling mystique as 2001. Yet if Clarke had written the sequel himself, it might well have turned into something worthy. Alas, it was not to be. In the incompetent hands of Gentry Lee, and doubtless with considerable help of his trivial mind, it was turned into ridiculous and lurid soap opera.So why did he do it? Why in the name of Rama did Arthur Clarke allow his name to appear on the cover of such junk? Was it for Gentry's sake? No; had he been so altruistically inclined, Clarke might have collaborated with him incognito and let him publish the book under his name only. Then again, a book with only Gentry's name on the cover would, needless to say, have had a tremendously diminished commercial potential. Was it for money and glory? Hardly. By the late 1980s Clarke was already in his seventies and widely recognised, together with Asimov and Heinlein, as one the greatest masters of genre. At any rate, it is unfortunate and distressing that his name - in bigger font than Gentry's, even though the real proportion is very much the reverse one - should be on the cover of Rama II, as well as on so many other covers with so many other names. Scanning Clarke's bibliography in Wikipedia, one sees that the first collaboration with Gentry (in Cradle, 1988) was the beginning of what, judging by Rama II and a good many negative reviews of other books, was a sad end of a glorious career. Until the end of his life, Clarke's name appeared on the covers of 15 novels, but only two of them were written entirely by him: The Hammer of God (1993) and 3001: The Final Odyssey (1997). If his other collaborations with Gentry, or Steven Baxter, or whoever else happens to be his companion on the cover, are thrice as good as Rama II, they still would not be worth reading.Until 1993 Arthur and Gentry produced altogether two sequels more: The Garden of Rama and Rama Revealed. It is perhaps significant that they grow conspicuously bigger: the former is more than 500 pages long, the latter more than 600. After the dismaying experience with the fabulously dismal Rama II, I don't think I will ever read its own sequels. So if you need a copy for free, just let me know. (Rama II is read but once, the other two are unread, all in very good to excellent condition. Shipping's at my expense.)By way of conclusion, I will pay the greatest possible compliment to Rama II. I actually recommend this book to everybody who has read and loved Rendezvous with Rama. The sequel is so un-Clarke, nay it is indeed anti-Clarke, it is so ludicrously lurid, trivial and inept - that it's unintentionally hilarious. Of course if you prefer cheap space soap operas over serious science fiction, Rama II is the perfect book for you. And you are at perfect liberty to agree with The San Diego Tribune that it is indeed ''much better than Rendezvous with Rama''. For my part, when in the mood for some light escapist entertainment, I would much sooner read Dan Brown or Jackie Collins than anything by Gentry Lee.

I was surprised that this book turned out to be so disappointing. I almost gave up a few times but forced myself to finish, expecting it to get better. Now I feel abashed, as if I sent a nigerian prince $10,000.00 because I believed his email about his terrible, urgent need.Rendezvous with Rama (The book proceeding Rama II in the series) was a wonderful book. It was a classic example of "hard" sci fi, Arhur C. Clarke at his best. It had fascinating science, great atmosphere and tension, and built to a decent climax. Above all it was well thought out, Rendezvous avoided sensational story tactics and instead presented a logical, realistic resolution to the story.Rama II apparently felt Rama I was too dull, and responds by tossing all the logic and realism out the window. In their place Rama II piles on huge helpings of fatiguing "character development" for uninteresting characters and opts for eye-rolling soap opera story in place of simple good sci fi.Having enjoyed Rama I so much, I was determined to like Rama II. I kept reading thinking to myself, "Surely, this must get better at some point" A few hundred pages later I feel dirty. Like I fell for a clearly fraudulent pitch of some snake oil salesman. All the signs were there that Rama II was not a very good book, I deceived myself into not seeing them.But I should give examples if I am to criticize the book so harshly, beware, spoilers ahead!Reasons why this book just was not good:-The Shakespear Robots. Yes, this one guy likes shakespear, and makes cute robots that recite shakespear. We get it already. MAKE THE ROBOTS SHUT UP!!! Why do they keep coming back?? They get more lines than half the crew.-After the commander of the mission dies early on, there is NO clearly designated second in command. Seriously? The single most important event in human history, and the assembled world governments, military and space programs do not think it's important enough to have a clearly defined command structure? That is just idiotic. The only reason that there was no second in command was to provide a plot device for the crew to argue over who should lead, and then to have tension after someone is picked. Its like reality TV.....survivor in space.-The crew. My god these people. I guess Arthur C. Clarke has received some criticism for having weaker than average characterization. But this book responds by just layering on long meandering pointless back stories of dull characters. It doesnt make you care about them, it makes you mad they are not focusing on more interesting matters. The Rama I crew made sense, it was an assembly of the space programs finest, which you would expect on such an important mission, and they completed their mission with professionalism. This crew has a ridiculously high percentage of untrained, borderline insane civilians along just for fun. TWO journalists, who are both wildly unbalanced. Really?? Well I guess it is the single most important mission in human history, that is why we sent Walter Cronkite to the moon with Neil Armstrong right?......right?-The book introduces practically nothing new from Rama I. The crew gets to Rama II basically encounters the same things the Rama I crew did, and then spend all their time with terrible interpersonal conflicts. There were a few new encounters, but no big "WOW" moments that would have made this worth while.- Rama II either ignores or just plain forgets about a number of Rama I facts. For example the Hermians, who played an interesting role in Rama I, are left out this time. The book details a huge economic collapse on Earth and briefly mentions most of the space colonies in the solar system had to return to Earth due to lack of supply or aid. However in Rama I it is clearly stated that the Hermians on Mercury are entirely self sufficient, and an incredibly hearty race of people. And Rama I makes a point that they could never return to earth anyway, having been born on the extremely low gravity of Mercury. -Simple technology appears to have regressed hundreds of years. For example in Rama I the crew is able to communicate to each other from anywhere aboard the Rama ship, even when someone crashes in the southern hemisphere his equipment is strong enough to survive and he can still communicate to the far end of the Northern Hemisphere. In Rama II the crew cannot speak to each other for even half that distance once the Beta Relay is damaged. There were a number of examples of this, the book does state there was a large economic collapse for a few decades between Rama I and II, but I simply cant believe technology went to crap as much as this book wants you to believe. It's like Micheal Bay's Armageddon, these changes only exist so that more things can go wrong to make it harder for the crew and provide some sort of conflict. Everything must go wrong at every step, unlike Rama I which was more logical and realistic.- The ending. After putting up with all the contrived "things that go wrong", the endless slogging through characters generic backstories so we get to know them....none of it pays off! The bad guys get to go back to earth with no one who can incriminate them still alive (As far as they know), and presumably live out long lives making billions of dollars. The good guys quietly shuttle off into deep space, not having learned much at all from the long mission, just happy to be alive. The rest of the good guys die. I am only a quarter of the way through the third book, so maybe there is resolution still to come. But as of the end of Rama II your left asking yourself..."WHY was I forced to learn so much about these people, how aweful they are? It was completely irrelevant!"-Also, who is the unidentified father of the main characters daughter? The freaking King of England. Because a Duke just wouldn't have been dramatic enough.So anyway, first book good, second book bad. Thats the long and the short of it.(P.S. Seriously, the crew still annoys me. David Brown the scientist who eventually conives his way into being in charge. What the hell? A middling scientist with modest acheivements and EVERYONE seems to know that he stole his only important work from a grad student...why is he on this mission? Why does anyone think he should be in charge?? And even when the doctor is virtualy certain the reporter witch killed the commander and is pulling a thousand other strings, the doctor just goes on refusing to tell anyone her suspicions, ug)
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Txe Polon
Es evidente que el inicio y el desarrollo de esta segunda parte de Cita con Rama sorprenden por su distanciamiento respecto a la obra original. El tono es claramente diferente, se describen situaciones socio-políticas completamente ajenas a la primera parte y muchas veces si incluyen historias personales que centran el peso de la narración en los personajes, más que en la acción y en la carrera espacial. Este último aspecto es el que seguro que es denostado por los lectores asiduos de ciencia ficción, en especial la vertiente romántica. En mi caso, como lector esporádico de ciencia ficción, a veces estas historias personales me satisfacen y a veces no: muchas de ellas no aportan mucho a la trama (y multiplican los personajes de forma innecesaria), hasta que la trama se centra en tres personajes. Pero dejando de lado esto, en realidad la novela se lee muy bien, las nuevas aportaciones sobre el mundo de Rama satisfacen y se llega al final con ganas de continuar con la tercera parte, que ya es mucho.
Ah, now I remember this book. Contrary to what I said in my review of Rendezvous with Rama I now recall that four years ago I actually read the first three books in this quadrilogy, not just the first two. This book is frightfully dull but not quite bad enough to warrant quitting the series.One of the good things about this book's predecessor is how quickly it gets into the action. The cosmonauts are inside Rama within about ten pages. Here we get a hundred pages of inept character development before they finally reach the spacecraft. All of Gentry Lee's characters are one-dimensional stereotypes of fictional characters. Each of them has to be horrible or lovely, with their actions being over the top so we can't get the two groups muddled. Every other character was abused as a child and that's used either as an excuse for them growing up to be an immoral charlatan or as proof that they have lots of moral fortitude.The book doesn't really add anything to its predecessor, I guess you have to read its two sequels for that. But since The Garden of Rama was bad enough to lead me to stop reading the series three quarters of the way through, I'm not sure it's an experience that I'm going to enjoy.
This book was quite different from the first one "Rendezvous." I'm not sure if it was becaue he co-wrote it with someone else or because it was part of an originally unplanned series. Anyway, this book is written to develop the characters upon whom the next two books of the series will focus. It is kind of slow in the beginning; located on earth, focused on the people who are going to make a second rendezvous with the enormous spaceship seen in the first book, and with a lengthy discussion on the impact of "first contact" on human society. The first half, although slow, does have some interesting commentary on human nature and society in general. The action eventually picks up and Clarke adds much more suspense and few scares, ending the book on a high note and leaving you with that sense of "what going to happen next!" Overall a good read. If you do read it and you don't like it the next two book are worth checking out.
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