Fiction Reviews

3001: The Final Odyssey

(1997) Arthur C Clarke, Voyager£5.99, pbk, 273pp. ISBN 0 586 06624 1


This latest, and hopefully truly the final, episode in the Odyssey series is its swan song. Arthur arguably should have left it at 2001, though we can forgive him both the financial lure of 2010 and that it explained things to those unaccustomed to SF tropes.

3001 begins with the body of Frank Poole being discovered in space and one by one the original (non-hibernating) Discovery crew reappears. As such it is a joy to once more see old friends and one can read 3001 with pleasure for this alone. Much of the rest of the book concerns how Clarke's universe has evolved (which is quite interesting) and how he personally sees humanity evolve (which contains little that has not been done better elsewhere).

Quite clearly Clarke is coming to the end of his career after nearly half a century of writing, the upside of which is that book is very easy to read. This is his first solo novel for some years and deservedly so, we would not want anyone else mucking around in this universe. However this is not Clarke at his best by a long chalk and I want to remember the man for City and the Stars, Childhood's End and Rendezvous with Rama, or his collection of shorts like Tales from the White Hart. 3001 will be essential for buffs but the message for newcomers to Clarke is to check out his earlier titles: do it now while they are still in print.

Jonathan Cowie

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