Recently, a memory was sparked off in my head of a vast abyss, and floating in the pitchest black possible, alone, with who knows what waiting to be discovered in its dark depths.
Thankfully – or sadly – all this was experienced between the covers of a book, the one I’m referring to is the slim volume with plenty of imagination, Arthur C. Clarke’s, wonderfully realised Rendezvous with Rama.
Rereading that particular chapter in the cold light of day didn’t have anywhere near the same impact as being cuddled up in bed, touch lamp on low, with the details of my peripheral vision suitably obscured, and reading to the soundtrack of a near all consuming silence.
The prose does retain some of its initial impact, however, especially when astronaut Commander Norton likens himself to Howard Carter about to enter tutankhamun’s undisturbed tomb, a striking visual, and such a human thing to grab onto in an outer space exploratory experience. Conveying both our smallness in the universe and our insatiable appetite to explore and see all there is.
The reader gets to experience that feeling of floating in nothingness, tens of kilometres of emptiness between you and anything else, the vulnerable feeling of being suspended in the vast unknown with only the imagination for company, before… well that would be spoiling a great story.
There is little else like that feeling of being so taken with a book that we find ourselves immersed in such positions that take us out of the real world. Further on in the book, I had some trouble visualising the vastness of a particular image. This being a book of discovery, I won’t ruin anything for those intrepid voyagers who wonder at what is out there in the universe.
The four books of the Rama series (the three sequels co-written by Gentry Lee), as well as the four Space Odyssey books, beginning, of course, with the epic 2001: A Space Odyssey, which made a stunning film as well, are compelling science fiction reads. Anybody looking for a great reads in the genre will enjoy these works of his, especially.