Monday, December 17, 2007

Rendezvous With Rama

As the semester winds down I'm taking some time to enjoy more leisurely pursuits. Thus much of Saturday was dedicated to re-reading Arthur C. Clark's Rendezvous With Rama. Rama follows a group of explorers who survey the interior of a vast alien spacecraft passing through the solar system. What is the purpose of the ship? What are the intentions of the Ramans? How should humankind respond to an incommunicative, inscrutable visitor from the stars?

Rendezvous With Rama is one of my favorite sci-fi books. Clark's descriptions of the alien world, the dizzying geography of cities and oceans wrapped around the inside of a mammoth tube, has long populated my imagination:
Even the millions of candle power of the flare could not light up the whole of this enormous cavity, but he could see enough to grasp its plan and appreciate its titantic scale. He was at one end of a hollow cylinder at least ten kilometers wide, and of indefinite length. From his viewpoint at the central axis, he could see such a mass of detail on the curving walls surrounding him that his mind could not absorb more than a minute fraction of it. He was looking at the landscape of an entire world by a single flash of lightening, and he tried by a deliberate effort of will to free the image in his mind.
Journeying to Rama, one never knows what will happen next. Indeed, throughout the story, newfound answers lead merely to more questions. I guess that's one of my favorite parts of Rendezvous With Rama: In Clark's world, some mysteries ultimately cannot be solved.

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