By Arthur C. Clarke
I knew it. After reading The City and the Stars, I said I would be enticed into Clarke’s universe again. And boy did he capture me this time. Rama is Clarke’s version of humanity’s first encounter with an alien culture. The action takes place aboard an alien spacecraft, a huge cylinder floating through our solar system with no clues as to its origin or purpose. This is no ordinary man-meets-alien story; it is much more creative than that.
In fact, it is an adventure story. As we follow the intrepid space explorers on their first encounter with an alien culture we learn how obstacles can be overcome with improvised solutions, how political machinations back home can create headaches in the field and simply how frightening exploration can be. The novel is gripping; luckily I was on a trip as I was reading it so I could easily take the time out of daily life to devour it. I would have woken up with cold sweats had I not been able to find time to learn the fates of the characters.
From Clarke I expected more philosophy. I could have easily digested more theological/humanitarian inquiry into what effect an alien encounter has on human soul and identity. Those looking for this should look elsewhere (perhaps the other Rama books – there are many sequels – delve into this theme?). Nevertheless, I was not disappointed. Clarke’s unconventional novel is filled with delights.