The RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA Discussion Thread

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The RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA Discussion Thread

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1artturnerjr
Redigerat: jun 6, 2013, 2:28pm

Hey all! Back in January of this year, billiejean and I discussed the fact that we had both selected Arthur C. Clarke's novel Rendezvous with Rama for our TBR Challenge lists this this year, and that it might be fun to read it together and discuss it as we go along (see http://www.librarything.com/topic/146793#3839139 and following). Well, we finally settled on a date to begin reading it and decided we'd post a thread here at TBRC in case anyone else here (or elsewhere) wanted to join in.

If you're joining us, here's what you need to know:

We are planning to start reading the novel this week. I would like to wait a couple of weeks until we start the discussion of the novel proper to give everbody that wants to join in a chance to obtain a copy and to read a little bit of it before we start (RWR was and is a popular novel that, to my knowledge, has remained in print ever since it was first published in 1973, so it should be fairly easy to get your hands on a copy). That would put our discussion start date sometime during the week of June 16th.

(That's actually all I've got so far - I have never participated in a discussion of a full-length novel on LT before; I am more than open to suggestions, so please feel free to offer them.)

ETA: Correction to above - the novel was originally published in 1973, not in 1972 as previously stated.

2Cecrow
jun 4, 2013, 11:27am

I won't be reading along, but I'll make certain to follow your discussion. It's a novel that made no impact on me when I read it many years ago, so maybe you'll be able to help me appreciate it more.

3artturnerjr
jun 4, 2013, 12:39pm

>2 Cecrow:

Sounds great!

4artturnerjr
Redigerat: jun 4, 2013, 5:21pm

Det här meddelandet har tagits bort av dess författare.

5billiejean
jun 5, 2013, 3:14pm

I am going to start reading today. I have my copy ready to go. Thanks for setting this up!

6artturnerjr
jun 5, 2013, 3:22pm

>5 billiejean:

No problem. I am starting today also. :)

7artturnerjr
jun 11, 2013, 10:45am

How far along are you now, BJ?

8billiejean
jun 14, 2013, 11:03am

I am almost halfway through. Sorry that I am so slow reading these days. I go to too many meetings. How far along are you? Are you finished?

9artturnerjr
jun 14, 2013, 11:15am

>8 billiejean:

Are you finished?

Ha! No, nowhere close. You're way ahead of me, actually - I'm only on Chapter 13. I've been making myself read it slowly in case anybody else wanted to join us at the last minute, but it doesn't look like that's gonna happen. Do you mind waiting until I hit the halfway mark (Chapter 23, since there are 46 chapters) and then we can start discussing it (it should only take me 3-4 days to get that far)?

10billiejean
jun 15, 2013, 10:21pm

Sounds good.

11artturnerjr
jun 15, 2013, 10:32pm

>10 billiejean:

Great! I'm on Chapter 17 now, so I'm already about halfway there. :)

12artturnerjr
jun 19, 2013, 12:01am

Okay, a few (very) brief remarks upon hitting the halfway mark - even briefer than anticipacted as my computer just ate what I had attempted to post before. :(

This is a solid, suspenseful novel. I think a lot of readers who would potentially enjoy it don't give it a shot because they are intimidated by its reputation as a quintessential "hard" SF text (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_science_fiction). They shouldn't be - it's about as easy to slip into as a Stephen King or John Grisham novel.

I was a little startled to see the book start out with a description of a catastrophe taking place on the morning of September 11 - rather prescient, don't you think? Oh, and I love the superchimps/simps - hoping to hear more about them as the novel progresses.

That's all I have for now. What are your thoughts thus far, billiejean?

13billiejean
jun 21, 2013, 11:34am

Sorry to take so long to get back to you. I had kind of a hectic week at work.

I was also startled by the September 11th reference and double-checked the publication date!

This book really drew me in. I only dabble in sci-fi, but I was impressed that this book won all of the sci-fi awards.

I also thought it was interesting how they were looking for meteor that might hit the planet, since we are doing that today. Just a while ago, I saw on the news that a rather large one was coming fairly close to Earth.

I wonder if this Rama was designed to have humans on board? For example, when the ship lands there is a convenient place to park with the ship against a protrusion to prevent it from flying off the edge, since they cannot land in the center. And then there is oxygen inside. I suppose however that those things could be intended for other life forms, too.

I like to hear the council discuss the matter. Interesting that they need an archeologist. And interesting that the enormous cylinder is empty of life.

The climate discussion was something that I would not have anticipated. The way it thaws from the outside (which is the ground) in rather than from the top down like on a planet and the difference that it makes would never have occurred to me. And I think that it all must be a lot bigger than I realize for the significant changes to occur (trade winds!).

I think this book kind of starts slow and builds. It gets harder and harder to put down. I put it down for a while and found that I missed it and wondered what was going to happen next. I am really glad about that because I was in kind of a slump.

I also liked the simps! They sound kind of fun and helpful to have around.

14artturnerjr
jun 21, 2013, 12:52pm

Sorry to take so long to get back to you. I had kind of a hectic week at work.

Quite all right. The only reason I am as far as I am now is that I was on vacation last week!

I only dabble in sci-fi, but I was impressed that this book won all of the sci-fi awards.

It was only the fifth novel to win both the Hugo and Nebula awards (the first four: Dune, The Left Hand of Darkness, Ringworld (which RwR resembles, I think), and The Gods Themselves).

I like to hear the council discuss the matter. Interesting that they need an archeologist. And interesting that the enormous cylinder is empty of life.

I also enjoyed it that the spaceship that gets selected for the rendezvous is just the one that happens to be closest to Rama when they decide to send someone out to it. Imagine that transmission: "Hey! Guess what you guys get to do today!" :D (I'm guessing intercepting giant alien spacecraft was NOT in anyone's job description!)

I also liked the simps! They sound kind of fun and helpful to have around.

I love this line: "{Norton} had known men he would have killed with far fewer qualms than Goldie." I imagine there's people in our world that feel the same way about their cats and dogs.

16artturnerjr
jun 24, 2013, 4:59pm

So what's next? Do you want to wait until we both get to the 75% mark (Chapter 35) and then discuss it again?

17billiejean
jun 24, 2013, 5:16pm

That sounds perfect.

I also read Dune, which was quite complex. I thought it was a great read, however. I haven't read the others.

I agree that it would be exciting, but also alarming to get the job just because you are closest with the promise that we will refuel you eventually while you just sit out in space.

Thanks for the link. :)

18billiejean
jun 24, 2013, 5:18pm

That was one interesting spacecraft and I am glad to see that there are plans for 2014 as I thought everything was on hold.

19artturnerjr
jun 24, 2013, 7:32pm

That sounds perfect.

Great! You wanna shoot for, say, next week (6/30 - 7/6) to discuss that section? I just started Chapter 27, so that should give me plenty of time to read up to 35.

I haven't read the others.

I've read Dune and Ringworld. I've had copies of The Left Hand of Darkness and The Gods Themselves forever, but can never seem to get to them. Maybe in 2014.

I agree that it would be exciting, but also alarming to get the job just because you are closest with the promise that we will refuel you eventually while you just sit out in space.

Remember too that early on Norton acknowledges that it may be a suicide mission, but seems to feel that that is a price worth paying, under the circumstances ("history could never take away from him the priviledge of being the first of all mankind to gaze upon the works of an alien civilization"). I know how he feels.

Thanks for the link. :)

Yeah, no problem!

20artturnerjr
jun 24, 2013, 7:56pm

Acrtually, looking back, I realize I kinda screwed up what I said in #14. Flowers for Algernon won a Hugo back in 1960 when it was published in its original form (as a short story); the author then rewrote it as a novel and it won a Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1966 - so RwR is the fifth and a half novel to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards! :D

21billiejean
jun 24, 2013, 11:23pm

I remember reading Flowers for Algernon in Junior High. Probably the short story, I guess. I thought it was sad, but my daughter said that at the end he was happy. My other daughter has a copy of The Left Hand of Darkness around here somewhere, so I might run across it someday.

I have a few too many books. And since I like to reread, I don't get rid of them after I read them like I should.

22artturnerjr
jun 26, 2013, 1:42am

Flowers for Algernon is an all-time favorite of mine. I think Charlie Gordon is one of the greatest characters in 20th century literature.

At least you have the excuse of rereading them! I do very little of that and still can't get rid of my books.

23billiejean
jun 26, 2013, 5:52pm

I need the excuse. The books are taking over.

24artturnerjr
jul 11, 2013, 12:19pm

Okay, finally finished reading through Chapter 35; sorry it took me so long. Just to be safe, I'll include a...

****SPOILER ALERT!****

If you haven't read Rendevous with Rama through at least Chapter 35, you may not want to read any further. There will be some pretty major spoilers after this.

Okay. My favorite thing, by far, has been the introduction (finally!) of actual ETs. One of my pet peeves with a lot of SF is that the aliens very rarely to seem to be, well, alien. Fortunately, creating interesting ETs is kind of a specialty of Clarke's, and he does not dissapoint here.

The Dragonfly section of the story could have been a bit hard to swallow (A hang glider! How convenient!) but the backstory to how it got there was convincing enough that it didn't take me out of the story too much.

The "terminal velocity" solution to Jimmy's rescue was much more straightfoward than what I thought they were going to do (I thought the were gonna undock and then dock on the South Pole side - either that or they weren't gonna be able to rescue him).

I am intensly curious to see how many (and which) of the things that have been kept mysterious thus far will be revealed and how many (and which) will be kept mysterious. Speaking for myself, I am hoping that at least some things are left mysterious (I like to have some room to use my imagination).

Your thoughts, billiejean?

25billiejean
jul 17, 2013, 10:53pm

Well, I am super late getting back to you. I am so sorry! The world has gotten busy.

I liked the Icarus part, but I was a little confused by the lightning and spikes. The terminal velocity solution was pretty good, plus he did get a dip in the water for a while.

The ETs were interesting, especially those on trash duty, and I was wondering if the plant was really a plant.

I keep getting a little confused with up being in the center.

And I wonder if the ship is studying them.

I don't know if I will be able to read for a while because I have company coming and am then leaving town. I hate to stop this close to the end though. I think I will take the book on the trip with me and then let you know what I think when I get back into town. That will be around the 7th of August. Sorry to be so late.

I am kind of wondering if they are going to get off the ship or not.

26artturnerjr
jul 21, 2013, 10:41am

>25 billiejean:

Well, I am super late getting back to you. I am so sorry! The world has gotten busy.

Again, no worries. My world has been pretty busy, too, so I sympathize.

I actually went ahead and finished the book last night, because (1) I just couldn't wait to see how it ended and (2) I actually got everybody to leave me alone for a couple of hours (for the most part). I'm actually a little afraid to comment now because I don't want to spoil anything for you, so I'll just say that I thought the ending was very good and that I hope that you find it as satisfying as I did when you get to it.

I don't know if I will be able to read for a while because I have company coming and am then leaving town. I hate to stop this close to the end though. I think I will take the book on the trip with me and then let you know what I think when I get back into town. That will be around the 7th of August. Sorry to be so late.

That's totally cool. If I post anything about what happens after Chapter 35 I will clearly mark it with a spoiler warning as I did in post #24. Enjoy your trip and post your thoughts on the rest of the book at your convenience. :)

27pgmcc
jul 25, 2013, 6:40am

billiejean & artturnerjr

I hope you do not mind my intruding, but Rendezvous with Rama is one of my favourite books and I have been lurking on this thread reliving my own experiences of reading the book as each of you has reached different stages of the novel. It has been a pleasure to eavesdrop on your thread. I hope you do not mind.

Like yourself, artturnerjr, I found the ending very satisfying but I will hold off adding any comments on specifics until billiejean has reached the end.

28billiejean
jul 28, 2013, 7:40pm

I actually finished the book ahead of schedule, as well. I also found it hard to put down. Since I am about to leave town and you have finished the book, I will put in a few comments. (THESE ARE SPOILERS.)

I have to say that I loved the simple solution to the Mercury (Hermian) problem. Just one small tool and a few minutes of time.

The Hermians were dependent upon knowledge of science to survive in their difficult environment, so they must have known that they did not give enough notice to the crew.

I was hoping to see the actual "Ramans," but the cliffhanging ending of they always do things in threes did imply that this was just reconnaissance. Who was checking out whom? What would they have thought if the recon vehicle had been nuked?

I really loved this book, which was important to me because my reading time has drastically shortened and I was feeling the need to read something short but great.

Thanks so much for reading this book with me. I will check back in when I get back in town.

29Cecrow
sep 17, 2013, 1:56pm

I'm certain I've read this. I mean, I can remember the act of reading it, where I was, what my edition's cover looked like, and I know I finished it. Why is none of this ringing a bell? :S

30artturnerjr
Redigerat: sep 18, 2013, 10:32am

Okay, finally responding here, atrociously late. Thanks to Cecrow for reminding me of this thread's existence. :)

>27 pgmcc:

No, totally cool seeing you here, pgmcc. I originally placed the thread here so any other LTers who wanted to join in on the discussion could.

>28 billiejean: ***POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD***

I have to say that I loved the simple solution to the Mercury (Hermian) problem. Just one small tool and a few minutes of time.

Yeah, that was rather neat, wasn't it? A bit like Alexander cutting the Gordian Knot. :)

I was hoping to see the actual "Ramans," but the cliffhanging ending of they always do things in threes did imply that this was just reconnaissance. Who was checking out whom? What would they have thought if the recon vehicle had been nuked?

There really is quite a bit that is left mysterious here, isn't there? This is as it should be, imho - as Clarke had demonstrated in collaboration with Stanley Kubrick in 2001: A Space Odyssey (a bit moreso in the film than the book), an encounter with a highly advanced ETI would more than likely be an almost completely inscrutable experience for us. It kinda makes me sad to know there are sequels - sometimes I like to have my own answers to these sorts of things. :)

***SPOILERS END***

I really loved this book, which was important to me because my reading time has drastically shortened and I was feeling the need to read something short but great.

My thoughts exactly. :)

Thanks so much for reading this book with me.

The pleasure was mine, billiejean. Maybe if our extra-literary commitments calm down a bit we can do it again sometime. :)

>29 Cecrow:

I'm certain I've read this. I mean, I can remember the act of reading it, where I was, what my edition's cover looked like, and I know I finished it. Why is none of this ringing a bell? :S

I've had this experience more times than I can count, Cecrow. Seems like about every third trip I make to the library involves some time looking up a book that has come up on my LT automatic recommendations and made me go, "I've read this... haven't it? Dammit, I don't remember anything about it!" LOL

ETA: "encounter with highly advanced ETI" changed to "encounter with a highly advanced ETI".

31pgmcc
sep 18, 2013, 4:23am

SPOILER ALERT

..." but the cliffhanging ending of they always do things in threes

This ending had me convinced the book was the first in a trilogy and I waited years for a second novel. When RAMA II came out I was disappointed because I didn't think it added much, but it was still a reasonable read. The third book left me cold. When a forth novel came out, RAMA Revealed, I was disgusted that there were FOUR books when the Ramans always do things in threes.

I gave up half way through the fourth book. I felt the sequels were just a launch pad for Gentry Lee and I was not impressed at all.

32artturnerjr
Redigerat: sep 18, 2013, 11:04am

>31 pgmcc:

I have heard mostly (although not exclusively) bad things about the sequel novels. I am not in a big rush to get to them - there are too many books that I would probably enjoy more that are already in Mt. TBR. :)

ETA: corrected spelling

33pgmcc
sep 18, 2013, 10:45am

#32 My experience would support your intended course of action.

My Mt. TBR is looming above me also and there are so many books in that mountain that I really want to get to that wasting time on something that is not up to scratch simply for the sake of completeness is not a luxury I allow myself.

We are intrepid explorers carefully considering the terrain before us before setting out on our path up the slopes of an edifice that is still tectonically active and liable to grow in front of our eyes. Good luck with the climb, fellow adventurer.

;)

34artturnerjr
sep 18, 2013, 11:03am

>33 pgmcc:

An excellent extended metaphor. Godspeed to you as well, my friend. :)

35pgmcc
sep 18, 2013, 12:12pm

We will meet at the summit!

36artturnerjr
sep 18, 2013, 2:01pm

:D

37Cecrow
sep 19, 2013, 7:51am

There's a summit? So much fog up there ...

38pgmcc
sep 19, 2013, 9:17am

Be careful you do not get to close to cliff tops in the fog.

39billiejean
nov 6, 2013, 4:29pm

I have been away from LT for months. Medical issues in the family. But we are ever hopeful.

Anyway, I was surprised to see that there are actual sequels to this book. I had not realized that they were written. I guess they weren't much to write home about.

40pgmcc
nov 7, 2013, 1:56am

Definitely nothing to write home about. Once you have read the first book you have read the best. I do not believe Clarke wrote much of the sequels.

41billiejean
aug 29, 2014, 6:07pm

Thanks for letting me know.

42.Monkey.
aug 30, 2014, 3:30am

Oh you guys need to read Left Hand of Darkness! Le Guin is amazing and her Hainish Cycle books are just wonderful!

43pgmcc
aug 30, 2014, 4:29am

>42 .Monkey.: Left Hand of Darkness is excellent. Le Guin's work is a must.

44.Monkey.
aug 30, 2014, 4:31am

*nods enthusiastically*

45artturnerjr
sep 1, 2014, 10:54am

>42 .Monkey.:
>43 pgmcc:

I'm sitting on a nice little pile of unread Le Guin right now: The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, The Earthsea Trilogy, even some of her non-fiction stuff like The Language of the Night; it sort of forms its own little foothill to Mt. TBR, if you will. She is one of those writers that I always intend to get to and never quite seem to make it. Someday, someday...

Do you guys know her short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" (http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/dunnweb/rprnts.omelas.pdf)? Ye gods! Amazing.

46pgmcc
sep 1, 2014, 11:59am

>45 artturnerjr: I have not read that one. Thank you for the tip.

47Cecrow
Redigerat: sep 2, 2014, 8:59am

I'm on the outside looking in with The Left Hand of Darkness, didn't quite "get it". But Earthsea was fun and I would definitely like to read The Dispossessed.

48.Monkey.
sep 2, 2014, 9:04am

>47 Cecrow: What was it you didn't get? The Dispossessed is also part of the Hainish Cycle, so if Left Hand didn't quite work for you that one may not either...

49pgmcc
Redigerat: sep 2, 2014, 10:40am

>47 Cecrow: & >48 .Monkey.:
Interestingly enough, while I loved The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed left me thinking, "So what? What did I miss?"

50pgmcc
sep 3, 2014, 5:45pm

>45 artturnerjr:
Do you guys know her short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" (http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/dunnweb/rprnts.omelas.pdf)? Ye gods! Amazing.

Thank you for that, Art. I enjoyed the story. It is an interesting depiction of the wilful blindness exercised by all of us living in the Western World. It enables us to carry on without constant feelings of guilt for the deprivations and violence experienced throughout the Third World that is a direct consequence of our enjoying modern luxuries. An example is the daily employment of child soldiers by war lords in central Africa who are fighting for control of the mineral resources on which all our touch-screen technologies depend.

If you want to read some non-fiction that speaks to Le Guin's story you might like to look up Nick Harkaway's The Blind Giant: Being Human in a Digital World.

51artturnerjr
sep 4, 2014, 9:14pm

>50 pgmcc:

Oh yeah, exactly. And there are many, many other situations that it applies to, both foreign and domestic. The thing that I think is great is that Le Guin reached many more people by saying what she had to say in the form of a story than she would have had she expressed the same idea in the form of a left-wing political diatribe. That's the beauty of art.

52pgmcc
sep 5, 2014, 1:59am

If one wants to tell the truth, write fiction.
Science Fiction is not about tge future: it is about the present.

53.Monkey.
sep 5, 2014, 3:39am

Sci-fi has pretty much always been the go-to for social commentary.

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