Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

The year is 2131. The world is still shaken after the violent collision with a meteorite in 2077 when “the cities of Padua and Verona were wiped from the face of the Earth; and the last glories of Venice sank forever beneath the sea as the waters of the Adriatic came thundering landward after the hammer blow from space.”

Project SpaceGuard is now installed on Mars, with the purpose of identifying and cataloging space objects potentially hazardous to Earth. A strange object makes it’s appearance in our solar system and it is initially cataloged with a simple numeric name. But as it turns out that 31/439 is an artificial object of unknown origin the visitor received official name of Rama.

A mission to intercept the strange object is prepared in a hurry in order to explore the unexpected guest. Captain Norton and his crew of the Endeavour have only a few weeks to learn the secrets of the cylinder which is 50 kilometers long and 16 wide. Rama reveal it’s secrets as it approaches the Sun, filling the hearts of the human explorers with  fear, astonishment, admiration and finally love.

Arthur C. Clarke’s novel is written in an impeccable manner. Rendezvous with Rama is one of the few novels I’ve read twice and, acknowledge that, although I do not like to read the same book twice, I reread it even more avidly than I did the first time. Rendezvous with Rama was in fact among the first novels that made me to love science-fiction literature. It is a recommendation and a must for any avid science fiction reader. And for those who want to start reading science-fiction, Rendezvous with Rama seems to be a natural start, what makes you ask for more. There is no way you won’t fall in love with Arthur C. Clarke’s work after this one.


A post-apocalyptic tale: The Road – Cormac McCarthy

The novel was the winner of 2007 Pulitzer award (why Pulitzer for a science-fiction novel?) And presents our world at the twilight of the human race following a nuclear war. It is true that this whole nuclear winter was never mentioned in the novel, rather being an integrated part of the description that was given to the book by it’s publisher. (Romanian version at least). In fact, the way McCarthy describes the cataclysm that ended the world, proves it was not atomic. There is no mention of the atomic bomb radiation diseases or mutations implied by nuclear detonations. The novel describes only a desolate world, where a man with his son, while enduring hunger, cold and rain, are traveling south in the hope of finding a warmer weather.

Many things do not happen in the novel, the action is linear , with brief flashbacks in which the man remembers either his deceased wife or the world that was “before.” The Road begins as a promising novel but does not deliver. I’ve read this in it’s Romanian translation and the writing seemed strange (after I also saw the film I certainly do not have the patience and time to invest more into this story and also read the English version to compare but I’m sure it sounds better in English). I also do not understand how the dialogue was sometimes placed in the text, without any differentiation with quotation marks or indents, and sometimes it was is clearly marked as dialogue. Besides, conversations are absolutely stupid, “OK” appears to be the only thing that the two characters are able to say. I do not understand how everything is burned and destroyed besides houses as it is a known fact that the homes in the USA are built of wood. Why when they find a bunker full of food that would have supplied their needs perhaps a few years, the two prefer to continue traveling towards a destination they have no faith in? Was it Just because the novel is called “The Road”?

McCarthy’s novel has at least two qualities: it’s thin and has big letters. I would say it’s the first novel I read where nothing happens. But from my point of view, if I got through with it, it’s still a readable novel. I admit that it sometimes “hooked me” but only to leave me disappointed in the following pages. McCarthy have so many platitudes strung through the story that when he is trying to convey profound things they become almost comical. The writing seems the one of a great writer to me, but the story has absolutely nothing

Homecoming Saga I: The Memory of Earth

It’s been 40 million years since the humans arrived on the planet they called Harmony. The colonists were leaving behind the Earth, a planet rendered uninhabitable and ruined. Now, on this new home, in order to be safe from themselves, the first settlers genetically modify their brains to be receptive to a supercomputer called “The Oversoul” that was let into orbit. It’s main duty is to stop the humans on the surface from developing advanced technologies, by making them lose thoughts coherence when a forbidden topic is being tackled.

Only, after all this time, The Oversoul is losing integrity. Satellites are faulty and they start to fall apart, making their influence weaker by each loss of hardware. Seeing itself incapable of fulfilling it’s purpose, The Oversoul must act and find a solution to the problem. The help can only come from the humans and only those who understand and accept what The Oversoul was meant to be.

Nafai is a fourteen years old, whose connection with The Oversoul is unusually strong. He’s the youngest of his siblings and his father’s favorite son – and that’s not something that makes him very popular among his older step-brothers. When he comes with the claim that The Oversoul is talking to him, things don’t start to improve for the inexperienced boy. But before having to think of helping the Oversoul, out protagonist and his father have to deal with a more pressing problem, as a guy named Gaballufix threatens to wage war and to destroy Basilica, the home city of Nafai and his family.

Despite not being a fan of Orson Scott Card’s views as a person- he is a bigot and a Mormon – and I’ve read that the series is patterned on the Book of Mormon (it went up to the point where some accused Orson Scott Card of plagiarism) the book stays on its own and are some of the best I have ever got the chance to lay my eyes on. His books are all full of moral lessons, pointing out strong family and person to person bonds. The Homecoming Saga is the first series I have read completely in English and one that kept me guessing about the outcome, right up until the last book. But we’ll get there, and I promise it won’t disappoint.

The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three

The Drawing of the Three is the second part of The Dark Tower series written by Stephen King. For my own delight, i started the book on a plane and managed to finish it on Northern Sea shores. I know some of you haven’t got the opportunity to start the series yet, so be warned, there are some spoilers from the first book following this paragraph.

The story continues after the actions depicted in the previous novel, or maybe 10 years have passed since The Gunslinger caught with The Man In Black on the Golgotha, as time is a strange matter in the Midd-Earth. There, he reads Roland’s fate with his tarot cards: The Sailor, The Prisoner, The Lady of Shadows, Death (“but not for you, Gunslinger”), Life (which the wizard burns) and the Tower in the middle of the cards. After that encounter, Roland felt asleep and when he woke up, The Man In Black was nothing but bones.

As the second novel begins, The Gunslinger finds himself on the sand of the Western Sea where a creature looking like a giant lobster attacks him, ripping off his fingers. The wound gets infected and the fever almost kills him. With his last strength he drags himself across the beach until he finds a strange door, with a name written on it. Beyond that door, as the title suggests, he will meet three persons destined to cross their fate with his.

This second part is quite different from the first one. I wouldn’t go and say better or worst. The writing is more complex, the plot widens, new characters are presented, each of the, being gracefully crafted, and most important, believable. This is for sure one of my favorite reading. I’m looking forward to continue my journey alongside Roland towards The Dark Tower.

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger

Stephen King’s novel, the first in “The Dark Tower” series, flows like a poem. A poem with a perfect rhythm. A cadence of words without fault, a strange poem, with lyrics that make sense only when they are spoken aloud.

The novel begins alert. “The Man In Black fled across the desert and The Gunslinger followed.” In the first few pages Stephen King introduces us into a strange world, where tombstones marks the path of Roland Deschain, the last of his people, to The Dark Tower.

From a structural point of view, the novel is studded with stories from the Gunslinger’s past that justify both the actions and motivation of the main character. But instead of being upsetting, the flashbacks are more like stones that animates a sluggish river stream. Stephen King seems to know better than anyone to dose a story with such moments.

The pursuit of the elusive Man In Black is the central story of this first part, but the destiny of The Gunslinger goes further than that, to The Dark Tower. Roland’s journey through the desert is filled with characters and situations of the most unexpected. Lonely people, at the edge of their mental health, abandoned houses taken into possession by demons or even talking animals. All this creates a dark universe, where time loses its meaning and where nothing remains constant.

What surprised with this book, was the feeling that I’m not just reading a story about a journey, but I myself am part of it. It’s really easy to lose sense of reality and be convinced that you are the one who hears the story about the events of Tull directly from the mouth of the Gunslinger. An excellent read.