Rama II – Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee

Rama II, the classic science fiction novel and the sequel to “Rendezvous with Rama,” was a great read for me September-October of this year. I’d purchased it from a wonderful used bookstore here in Greensboro, Edward McKay, after I’d read the first book in the series.

Although it was uneven in its pacing (perhaps the effect of having two co-authors?), resulting in some slow parts and some parts I wished we could’ve slowed down to enjoy, it was altogether an interesting story.

In comparison with the first book, this book had MUCH, MUCH more character development and intrigue. The first book in summary: A large cyclindrical spaceship heads near earth, cosmonauts check it out, it’s uninhabited, everything goes great as they explore it, then they leave. Ta-da. Slow, heavy description filled with scientific terminology and medium-grade physics left a lot to be desired.

Now that Arthur C. Clarke was joined by Gentry Lee, Rama II is an entirely new kind of book though it continues the same story. First published in 1989, it’s lost none of its awe-inspiring sci fi focus. The cyclindrical spaceship returns, filled with much more active “biots”, the biological robots introduced in book one. These biots can be nasty, tearing certain space travelers apart limb by limb without apparent emotion. Deadly hurricanes and other weather anomalies render the interior of the spaceship a dangerous place to be. What’s most new in this book are the people.

Clarke and Lee actually develop the characters in this one, which were hardly given more than a name and a physical description in book one. (Ok, maybe a dry bio for the main guy.)

Now, we have Nicole des Jardins, a French-African woman and brilliant doctor whose father and daughter anxiously await her return back home. She keeps the identify of her daughter’s father a tight secret, because he’s a man of distinction (read the book to find out who he is!). Her arch nemesis is Francesca Sabatini, an Italian journalist and fierce conspirator, whose luxurious blonde locks, emerald eyes and incisive questions make her a force to be reckoned with. Other characters vary in importance.

Favorite part? I’d have to say that the in-space, robot-conducted appendectomy gone awry was the best. An uncontrollable robot slicing through a helpless man is pretty graphic, and it’s a major question as to who would have programmed the robot to commit such heinous murder. Another favorite part was Nicole’s flashback to an intense coming-of-age ritual her African mother insisted she do, involving having to defend herself against dehydration and lions in the African savanna while being under the influence of witch-doctor hallucinogenic herbs. Wow!

Definitely a great read if you’re into classic sci-fi. And don’t feel bad – you can definitely start on this one and skip the first Rama book.

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