Clarke returns to the universe of 2001: A Space Odyssey with the fourth and last novel, this time focusing on Frank Poole, the astronaut murdered by Hal in 2001. A thousand years later, Poole’s frozen corpse is retrieved and revived by a society that regards him as a hero and a living national treasure. At first he’s fully occupied with learning to live in an alien society and providing information to historians. But as boredom sets in, he finds himself drawn back to space and the Jupiter system… and the possibility of a meeting with David Bowman.
As Clarke notes in an afterword, it’s not possible to be completely consistent in a series about the near future that was written over a period of thirty years, and this book is better viewed as a variation on a theme rather than a sequel. With that in mind, the within series continuity glitches aren’t an issue, although there are a couple of annoying glitches within the book’s own timeline. The real problem is that this book is mostly a travelogue of the year 3001, with the section about the monoliths feeling sketchy and tacked on. There’s also a problem with some blatant preaching in places, when characters who are supposed to be having a conversation sound more as if they’re reading a prepared speech to sway an audience. I found it annoying, and I agree with many of the views being espoused.
It’s a readable and often enjoyable book, but I expect better from Clarke. I’d have felt cheated if I’d spent the money to buy this in hardback