|Image from wikipedia.org|
Hard science fiction isn't exactly known for its character development, and Rama proved no exception. It feels like the characters are only there so Clarke can show us how Rama works and sneak in fun science facts, like how a waterfall would work on this kind of world. Having said that, I found the book surprisingly engaging. I actually read it in a few days, not switching over to another book once. (I have this system, where I'm always reading one science fiction/fantasy classic, one literary classic, and one or two just-for-fun books at the same time. Then, if I feel one of the classics is heavy going, I can alternate between the books. I love it when a classic turns into a "fun" book.)
Rama doesn't really have that much of a plot; the focus is mainly on the world-building, showing us this amazing thing Clarke thought up. The sense of wonder, that "Wow" feeling, is my favourite thing about science fiction, and this book delivers. The part where they're entering Rama and going down the stairs in the dark? Goosebumps. There's also a feeling of mystery that stays with the reader until the end. Why was Rama built? Where are the Ramans? Who were they? Those questions kept me reading until the final sentence, which is really cool, by the way.
I actually liked that we didn't get straight answers: that would have spoiled the mystery. On the flip side, I don't think Rama has that much re-reading potential for me. The books I read again and again tend to be about characters I love going through hell and surviving. Re-reading book is like wanting to spend time with an old friend. Mostly, the friend is a character you identify with, but the world is important, too. Sometimes you just want to visit Middle-Earth. I wonder, why do people re-read hard science fiction novels? Do they just really love the technical stuff, or is it the sense of wonder?
Rama won the Hugo and Nebula awards when it came out, and I can see why. Clarke makes science fun, and you can almost feel his excitement for exploring his cylindrical world in the prose. It captures the imagination. There are three sequels, but I've heard they're pretty bad. Some people even say they ruin the first one, so I think I'll quit while I'm ahead.
All in all, an interesting read. There are quite a few of Clarke's novels on my reading list, and I'm looking forwards to the next one.
Science fiction classics read: 39/193.