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on April 9, 2004
This book is *not* written by Arthur C Clarke, it was written by Gentry Lee alone. The promotion of the book as an ACC book is highly misleading.
Gentry Lee belongs on the slushpile. His writing is full of magic and fantasy rather than science fiction. This book contains lengthy, irrelevant asides. The SF component is trivial; the book is basically a large character study.
It is astonishing how bad this book is by comparison to the excellent, simple narrative "Rendezvous with Rama"
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on February 16, 2004
At some point in the last 10-15 years it became fashionable for well-known and somewhat less well-known authors to co-write novels.
I can only speak for sci-fi novels because that's what I primarily read but, BAD IDEA!
I routinely leave novels untouched on the bookstore shelves when I see they have been co-authored. Nothing done by a committee, even a committee of two, is EVER as good as the original thought and personality of a single great author.
In this case the great author is Clarke. Why oh why, did he ever agree to this (please tell me he was not blinded by the almighty Dollar - or in this case the almighty Rupee). It would have been better if it had never been written!
I tried reading and skimming, and reading a few lines from each paragraph, and turning pages hoping it would kick in, but it just continued to wallow in it's own mire.
I stopped dead reading the book at Chapter 5, first paragraph, when I came across this line: "The catalyst for the relatively rapid collapse of the existing institutional infrastructure was the market crash and subsequent breakdown of the global financial system; however, these events would not have been sufficient, by themselves, to......" On and on, Blah, Blah, Blah. Gentry Lee would be hired instantly for a job writing federal government publications.
Does this even remotely come close to the tight, succinct writing in Rendezvous with Rama? (albeit short on characterization - but, WHO CARES when it's Clarke)
It's sad, very very sad. I wanted so badly to read more Rama. Instead I get Rama-dama-ding-dong.
Clarke states in this book's introduction: "I filled floppy disks (for Gentry Lee) with concepts, characters, backgrounds, plots - anything which seemed even remotely useful to the story.... " They collaborated by making frequent phone calls, says Clarke. I'd say they had a really... bad.... connection.... and/or the floppies got corrupted in transit.
Please, please do not read this book - you'll hate yourself afterward for the wasted time. I know you want to experience more Rama, but this is not the way. Wait a few years and re-read Rendezvous.
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on May 20, 2004
Exploring the original Rama was an quietly stunning experience of wonder; the dark, cold, sterile environment; watching as the alien world awoke. The Ramans completely ignored our explorers, considering them merely trash to be swept away by their bots. The central sea was mysterious and fascinating when frozen, it was mysterious and fascinating when the lights came on and the sea began to melt, the unexplored metal buildings were fascinating, the bots were fascinating. The exploration of Rama was stark, quiet, and beautiful.
Now, take these wonderful things, remove them from the story, add some obnoxious characters whom you will hate, study every aspect of the obnoxious characters in painful detail, and call it a sequel.
The contrast between this and the original leaves me at a loss for words. Terribly disappointing.
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on December 30, 2002
The longer I think about this book, the dumber I get. The first book (RWR) is a gem; fascinating, innovative, succinct, and it brings to life one of the better sci-fi characters I've come across: a gargantuan spaceship, revealed in fascinating, intricate detail.
RWR opened so many doors and left so many interesting questions unanswered that I was utterly astonished to discover that there exists someone so enfeebled (Gentry Lee) as to be able to write a RWR sequel that isn't even remotely interesting. Who made Rama? Where did it come from? What is its course? What are the cities? Are the biots the Ramans? No progress is made on these questions in all gazillion pages.
Undertake this book only with a moistened thumb at the ready, because you'll be applying it while skipping through page after page of "character development" that would make Judy Blume readers recoil in disappointment if their hearts hadn't already stopped beating from sheer disintrest. Be prepared to wade through several chapters of religionist thought[provoking bull] between the "action sequences", not something many A.C.C. readers look forward to.
Estimated total number of pages related to the exposition of Rama itself: 30/500+
Number of those presenting new information: 6
Number of pointless subplots: 27
Number of those resolved in the book: uhhh... 1? thankfully.
Transparent villains: 3
Just in case you see light at the end of the tunnel, the ending is even dumber. The only reason I finished it was because I just couldn't believe it. And from what I hear, this is the high water mark of the Gentry Lee sequels.
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on November 12, 2002
Look, I can understand why you'd want to read this book. "Rendezvous With Rama" was a gem of a science fiction book. Maybe it was a little short on character development, but with such a wonderful world to explore, who cares? Around every corner of the exploration were wonders... flights over a cylindrical sea, biots, mile-long stairways... Wasn't it great? Didn't you feel like you were reading the journals of explorers who themselves felt like ants in a cathedral? Didn't the whole book just blow your mind?
Well you WON'T find any of those virtues in this book or any of the sequale that follow.
Gentry Lee seems to have been given the seemingly impossible task of making RAMA--a space-bourn Grand Canyob-sized artifact of an alien culture--a boring place. What's his secret? He filled Rama with insipid caricatures straight from a 20th century soap opera.
Remember that heroic group from the first book that pulled together in the face of catastrophe? Gone! Rama II and it's sequals leave us with short-sighted bureaucrats, beautiful-but-power-mad Italian women, impossibly altruistic scientists, amoral lawyers, American corporate types who want to use Raman technology to create new weapons (boy, that's not cliche!), cowboy presidents, the pope, African-American gangsters, chess-playing Russians, oversexed teens, murderously jealous lovers, and a computer geek who overcomes his social ineptness to save the day and win the girl (Gentry Lee, not surprisingly, is a computer guy).
Maybe Clarke and Lee were worried that Commander Norton and his crew were all cut from the same "noble scientist" cloth that many of Clarke's characters use. If so, they overcompensated drastically. A spear-toting Eskimo or a peg-legged pirate wouldn't seem out of place in this group, but an intelligently written character would.
Most of the gaggle of Knots Landing rejects don't care at all about Rama II and since the book focuses on their bickering, their pregnancies, and their murders, neither will you.
After this one the books actually get worse. And by the time the Ramans reveal themself you (and conincidentally enough, many of the characters) are completly indifferent.
If you've read "Rendezvous with Rama" and haven't read this book yet, then please please PLEASE don't read it!
You'll be sorry you did.
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on March 6, 2004
I was a huge fan of the original "Rendezvous with Rama". It presented the reader with an incredible scenario and allowed him/her to simply explore it along with the characters- not getting bogged down in cliched details or unrealistically large personalities. At all times it felt like anything could happen, and it was one of the rare instances in which I literally couldn't put the book down.
This book, and the two that follow it, are almost completely opposite of the original in every way. This is a story all about the characters- more so than their mission. I was still interested in returning to the world of Rama and possibly discovering more, and this book didn't disappoint in that regard. However, there were so many cliches and naked plot-devices that it really detracted from my enjoyment. I was especially disdainful of the somewhat hokey "mysticism" with regard to the character of Nicole des-Jardins. That part seemed far more in the realm of fantasy than serious science-fiction.
However, I have read the succeeding books, which I thoroughly enjoyed (though not as much as the original), and "Rama II" is a required read before delving into the third and fourth installments. One must bear in mind that the three sequels are, basically, a separate series from the first book.
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on December 13, 2003
I loved "Rendezvous with Rama," and as a child, I'd spend time thinking about what it would be like to get left behind. I was excited to find this book - until I read it. It's not anything like book 1. The wonder, the focus on Rama itself is replaced by a focus on the characters - and most are flawed. In this and the next two books, humans come in and basically ruin everything. It's just depressing.
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on July 23, 2003
Man oh man!
Since it is now over six months since I finished the series, I can now look back in retrospect. I can honestly say that this is by far the worst series I have ever wasted time reading!
The first book, by Clarke alone, was absolutely brilliant! However, this "follow-up" series is just... not.
If you like soap opera style books, than you may enjoy this. Gentry Lee spends a LOT of time on each character, introducing them and giving them a detailed back-story. This is normally a good thing, but here it is so over done that it gets extremely annoying. Most of the characters we waste our time reading about are not even in the slightest way essential to the plot!
To give you an example of how long-winded the authors' pre-explanations are, the story doesn't actually get moving until well after page 150. They don't even arrive on Rama until nearly halfway through the book!
In comparison, Rama I was about one-third the size of this novel, and it accomplished FAR more in it's few pages. (It had to introduce the whole concept of the thing for goodness sakes!) Here, we have an already well-established concept, yet Lee wastes well over half the pages on so-called character development! The problem is that in spite of all this, we really don't care for most of the characters - especially not the main one who takes us through the whole series: Nicole des Jardins.
The writing style completely changes from book to book as well. In this one (Rama II), each chapter has a name, similar to Rama I. In the next book, they go by Journal entries for the most part, and in the last they don't even bother with names, they just use numbers for each chapter.
I could really go off on how much I loath this book and it's sequels, but I hate reading lengthy reviews myself, so I won't torture you through one either. Suffice it to say that you WILL NOT like this book UNLESS you are a big fan of "Days Of Our Lives" and other soap opera material. Really, it IS that bad!!
The only reason why I gave it 2 stars instead of 1 was because of some interesting creatures he introduced: Octospiders. Of course, he ruins them in the last book, so don't get your hopes up too high for what they really turn out to be. You WILL be disappointed.
My best advice is: Read something else.
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on May 25, 2003
In the year 2200, a second of the alien spacecrafts designated "Rama" enters our solar system, sparking another expedition to try to learn the secrets of its mysterious purpose and origin. This book is the sequel to Arthur C. Clarke's landmark First Contact novel Rendezvous with Rama, that showed an intrepid team of Earthmen exploring an apparently abandoned alien spacecraft that passes through our system. This is the second book in a series that will continue with The Gardens of Rama, and Rama Revealed. This time around Clarke is writing with NASA scientist Gentry Lee, whose knowledge of space engineering adds some details that the first novel had missed.
The first half of the book is fairly interesting, showing how the beautiful, ambitious, unscrupulous newscaster Francesca Sabatini manipulates the decision-makers who are nominally in charge of the racially, religiously, and nationally diverse expedition. Squared off against her is the heroine, Nicole des Jardins, the French-African Life Sciences Officer, who has secrets of her own. Once underway, a deadly accident causes a shift in the expedition's power structure. Then, once the remaining crew is aboard the Rama spacecraft, Clarke and Lee's scientific skills come to the fore, describing the peculiar features of this enormous vessel, and the seemingly inexplicable activities of the creatures (?) found within.
The second half functions as a more straightforward space adventure story, featuring Nicole des Jardins' perils aboard the Rama. All the intrigue gets lost in the excitement of wondering how Nicole will escape her doom on Rama, and while the resolution may be satisfactory enough for some, perhaps, it does require a good stretch of the imagination. Unfortunately, this book's ultimate conclusion really cuts the entire first half adrift, and the whole is less than satisfying. Perhaps the next volume, The Gardens of Rama, will once again pick up the plot threads that are left dangling in Rama II. One can hope so, at least, and the three-star rating reflects that expectation to a considerable extent, because without any further resolution this book would be very weak indeed.
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on August 22, 2002
Sequels often do not live up to the standards of a first tale. Rama II is a disappointing follow-on the the brilliant and insightful Rendezvous with Rama. Don't be fooled by the co-authorship, the book is pure Gentry Lee with ideas from ACC. The writing style is the first tip-off, not ACC's terse Spartan-like prose but long-winded rhetoric and convoluted narrative. The entire plot line goes like a very bad soaper: everyone of the characters (a) has secrets; (b) is emotionally unstable; or (c) has major psychological neuroses. In reality, none of the voyagers sent to meet the second Rama ship would ever be allowed off the ground -- so deep are their problems. The leading villainess, Francesca Sabatini, is like every lousy tabloid journalist combined. No explanation of how this bizarre crew was selected. None follows safety protocols, reporting procedures, or chain of command -- amazing anyone gets past the first 150 pages. The author(s) pull out every hackneyed cliche and the culminating plot-line will look familiar to any fan of B-movies. Earth seems to have only one way of dealing with alien species, show how powerful the defence arsenal can be. But the authors will drag this sorry tale out for two more volumes. Individuals who see much in the Lee-ACC trilogy have very low standards, indeed.
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