on July 18, 2002
It's not that I thought this book was awful, it's just that it didn't have much in it that I found very good. The original Rendezvous with Rama is a classic, filled with an environment that makes you wonder about the alien intelligence and crave for more.
These sequels, on the contrary, are set in the same "universe" but center around some Jerry Springer-esque quarrels amongst all the various humans. The notion that this has anything to do with Rama or aliens is secondary (or even tertiary) to the plot. In this installment, there are fleeting bits of the original wonder as the characters visit the "Node" and again when Richard visits the mysterious other dome towards the end. Sadly, this doesn't constitute very much of the overall book itself.
There are also some references that hit the reader with all the subtlety of an anvil to the head: the AIDS-like RV41 virus, Nicole's impending martyrdom and the constant (and fleeting) references to her heroes Joan of Arc and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the groaner where someone confuses Richard with Jesus. Social and religious commentary are the main themes of this book (as they were in Rama II). Science fiction is merely (and IMHO unfortunately) a backdrop.
on March 26, 2002
Want to get ripped off? Buy this book.
The original book in this series was very good-close to a classic. One of the few criticisms one could make of it was it was so transparently commercially manipulative was clear more books were on the way and this was as much--if not more--a money making exercise as an artistic one. But the book was good and this trilogy thing has apparently become a (bad) habit in the sci-fi world, so you give people a little leeway.
Or I did till the second book, Rama II came out.
If you read the first book then read Rama II, one thing is brutally clear-the books were written by different people. Clearly this book should have read "By Gentry Lee, based on the ideas of Arthur C. Clark.
The 2nd book was awful-the worst sort of 4th rate pulp sci-fi fiction. Sex and sensationalism replaced sci-fi as the driving force of the book. It advanced the readers understanding of the Raman'-their form, ideas, intentions, etc.--not one whit.
So why did I venture into this book? I thought that Clarke might just possibly have been sufficiently chagrined by the harsh criticism Rama II got to try to get back on track and provide a sequel worthy of the first book.
Unbelievebly, this book is even worse than Rama II. Much, much worse.
I won't even bother with a plot or character analysis. I really don't want anyone to even remotely think that there's anything here worth reading.
It's sad to see a giant of the genre sell out but I can think of no other explanation for these recent abominations.
Save your money. This book is worse than trash.
on September 4, 2001
As people who might have read some of my reviews probably noticed - I have this really bad case against sequels - they always seem to have too many facts of the first book restricting them, and too much to live up to. This sequel is no different. I could give Rama 2 some credit for trying to fix some problems that were in the original book, and it did try to be different, as bad as the result was. This junk is even worse!
We are finally destined to meet the makers of Rama, and a bunch of other aliens besides, and are exposed to some REALLY advanced technology. Wow!
Then we head back to earth to pick up 200 other human 'specimen'. At first all goes well under Nicole's leadership, but since the human society is so diverse crime evolves, and the criminals take over the habitat, and Nicole's family is put in jeopardy. The last scene in this book is her escape from jail the morning beore her execution.
Why read this book? We do learn a little more about Rama, about the aliens we already know, and about the ones we don't know, and get quite a big helping of the blah blah I resented so much in Rama 2 (again - this is an unfimiliar theme in other AC Clarke books - so I guess it has something to do with Gentry Lee joining in?) This book was a waste of my time and money, and I think it is a waste of yours too.
on June 17, 2001
"Good in Places". Indeed. (**Warning - a few slight spoilers ahead**). The opening few chapters even recaptured for me some of the mind-bogglingly grandiose wonder of the original Rama, The interaction with the Eagle and the eel-like aliens made for inspired and compulsive reading. The decision of how to divide the extended family and the tearful goodbyes made for a dramatic and genuinely poignant moment. Once Nicole transmits her message however and the action switches to the Earth-side preparations for rendezvous, the book nose-dives into mediocrity. Putting aside ones disbelief that such vast expense would be devoted to sending such a dysfunctional band of ex-felons to Mars as representatives of homo sapiens, the less-than-subtle and often irritatingly obvious allegory of human prejudices will surely make most readers groan in disbelief. Come on Sir Arthur (or was Gentry Lee the chief culprit?). You can do a lot better than resorting to two-dimensional soap-opera style goodies and baddies in space! As soon as characters are introduced, it is obvious whether they will fall into the hero or villain pot. Life just ain't that black and white guys! Why couldn't Benjy, Richard, the Redneck farmer or the annoyingly saintly Nicole have at least dropped some litter or something? Surely Katie, the boring Scotsman and the Jap entrepreneur must have had some decent features? Rama III does redeem itself somewhat in the later stages, where exploration of the mysterious far end of the spacecraft produces some enthralling revelations. All too soon however, the authors invoke the feelbad factor once again to remind us what a bunch of rotters humans are. The pious sanctification of Nicole was a particularly irritating sub-plot and really strains the readers' credulity. Would this tough cookie heroine honestly choose martyrdom rather than continuing her struggle against an oppressive system? Ho hum. All things considered however, the Garden of Rama was a satisfactory read and, mug that I am, I have just acquired a copy of Rama Revealed. So watch this space in a couple of weeks for my views on the concluding episode. Fingers crossed that the saga finishes on a high eh?
on May 28, 2001
This tremendous series continues with the third book in the Rama series. At the end of Rama II three astronauts we left trapped in a huge cylindrical spacecraft heading off towards one of our closest stars.
The first fifth of the novel is presented in the form of Nicole des Jardine's diary and is probably the highlight. It tells of their 12 year journey to "The Node" - a giant space station built by the creators of Rama. There are no warp-drive shortcuts here, Clarke and Lee brilliantly tell the story of how the astronauts start a family, not knowing how long their journey will last and their efforts (often painful) to create genetic diversity amongst their offspring.
As the returned and refitted Rama craft returns to pick up more human specimens, the book takes a breather for about 100 pages, delving you into the lives of many new characters through deep and often uninteresting characterisation. The completed colony accelerates off into space again, but 'New Eden' is not without it's problems as the des Jardine descendents and cross sections of global society struggle to integrate.
With an excellent plot, but pondering middle section "The Garden of Rama" succeeds overall, but you're left wondering about the sudden change in the colony with Nakamura takes power. We're back to full form in the last 100 pages with Wakefield investigating the other species on the ship while other events unfold in the human habitat. This is where the story picks up again but is rushed. The conclusion is pretty moving and makes you instantly want to pick up the final book "Rama Revealed."
on December 28, 1999
In the summer of `99, I walked into a book store with the intention of raking up as many books as I could carry, and being an aficionado of Clarke's works, among others, I picked out the third pillar of the Rama quadrology.
But after reading it, firstly, I feel as if I haven't missed out on much by reading the third chapter in the series to begin with. And secondly, I've marked the final chapter (Rama Revealed) for a rainy day, when there's nothing better around.
I wouldn't be so harsh in giving it a 2-star rating, were it not coming from the likes of none other than ACC (maybe 3-stars, were it some other, less-celebrated author).
It's acceptable upto halfway through the book. But the second half, where the whole New Eden concept is drawn up is very mundane. The entire plot (as someone has aptly remarked below) looks *exactly* like 20th century Earth. Same problems, same ecosystem, same attitudes, same sociology, same stimuli, even the technology does not at all look like what one might think would be 300 years from now! Not that I was expecting a utopia of some kind, but at least not 'Hey! This is us.' The references in the plot to humankind's past history consistently only refer to the 20th/21st century occurences. The one or two places where an attempt has been made to describe something 'futuristic' has become degenerated to that which is easily pin-pointed to something in our present time.
The character of Dr. Nicole des Jardin is too super-womanized and is only a hair short of being apocalyptic -- Olympic athlete, cosmonaut, lover to the King of England, judge, state governor, clairvoyant and the list goes on.
I had higher expectations than this, since I am forever mesmerized by the mystique and charisma of ACC's Space Odyssey series and many of his other works.
on October 20, 1998
One of the best known series in all of science fiction, the Rama story is a truly captivating tale that keeps you glued to the pages. Though slow at times, this is a story that no sci-fi fan should miss. It is a story that examines so many aspects of humanity: love, the bonds within family, greed, jealousy, tyranny, determination, moral dilemmas, the environmental and social problems that currently plague our planet, and the hopes and dreams of the future of mankind and how we might react in the face of the unknown wonders that await us as we venture from our cradle here on Earth and into the vastness of space. It is a story that will make you think about your own life and ponder the path that you have chosen over the years. It will make you think both while you are reading and for a long time after you finish.
If you're interested in other thoughts about Rama as a whole, see the beginning of my "Rama II" review.
"The Garden of Rama"
Part II of the grand Raman adventure picks up where the cliffhanger at the end of Part I left off. This book is much more accessible from the beginning than "Rama II", but those who did not like the first book will probably like the beginning of this one even less. It is written in four sections, however, and don't be put off if you find the first one too slow or emotional. The story really picks up a lot starting in the second section.
Personally, I thought that the format of telling the story through Nicole's journal in section one was very effective. What the family goes through in New York is incredible and anyone who has ever shared a deep love with a partner or spouse, or has been through trying times in a family cannot help but be moved by some of the things that take place. This book made me think about many aspects of my life and especially about the importance of the bond I share with my wife.
Apart from the emotional and moral explorations, there are plenty of mysteries tossed out there for the reader to ponder, especially where the Octospiders are concerned. The events at the Node were intriguing and sometimes mysterious, and the factory where Rama is reconfigured reminded me of the factory on Magrathea where the Earth was constructed in Douglas Adams's "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".
The middle section's character development reminded me a lot of the beginning of "Rama II" and the slowness of it drags the book down a bit. This part is so purely Lee that it is as if he slipped out of the Rama concept for a moment and ran off in some entirely different direction. Actually, this part is very important for the story, but that doesn't make it more interesting at the time.
What takes place once everyone is aboard is a truly sad, yet very accurate commentary on the human species. It is unfortunate that humans cannot get along with others of their own kind, are so overrun with greed and hate, and frolic through life with such disregard for other beings. I believe that the majority of people are good at heart, but there is always the minority that wages war, commits atrocities supposedly justified by skin color or ethnic background, or submits entire populations to virtual imprisonment merely to satisfy their megalomaniacal thirst for power. This is to say nothing of the shortsighted environmental crimes against the Earth or the extermination of other species that we are committing on a daily basis.
So what we have onboard Rama is a microcosm of human society encompassing all the best and all the worst that our world has to offer. This is not a story that sweeps reality under the rug and paints a rosy picture of mankind's future in space where virtually all problems have been solved. This is a story that exposes the hard facts and explores real social problems. There is even a parallel for AIDS in the RV-41 virus. And as you might expect the humans destroy their own habitat and then begin to destroy the habitats of those around them as well. Sometimes it seems that mankind's never-ending search for new frontiers is really a never-ending search for new environments to destroy. It's too bad that in reality there isn't anyone that can come in, call timeout, and put everyone to sleep. The humans in Rama thought that the Avians and the Octospiders were their enemies, but the true enemy comes from within. It is sad but true.
Like "Rama II", this book is not to be taken alone. It is simply the middle section of a much larger story and you must read all three parts to really appreciate what Clarke and Lee have done. The ending will drive you straight into "Rama Revealed"; I closed "Garden" and immediately opened "Revealed". The Rama story gets better and better as you go along. Again, I highly recommend reading the "Rama II" / "Garden of Rama" / "Rama Revealed" series. It will really get you thinking both while you're reading and for a long time after you finish. A truly amazing tale.
on July 15, 1998
When I first read R with Rama I got shocked , a giagiantic space craft of those magnitudes is simply fantastic. With Rama II the mistery once started in the original novel kept going. Some puzzles were solved wile others kept in mistery. So I couldn't wait to read GR. When I started it it was a cool experience , very good sci-fi. But then started the soap opera scenes. What the hell is that of Nicole having sex with Michael when Richard was his husband? It doesn't matter how necesarily it was , it just isn't right !. Then the human familly arrives to the Node. What a fantastic description of an alien Space Station , but what an awfull mistery. Aliens doing pan-cakes to the humans when they order them? Give me a break!. Then we have The Eagle. At first it looks like an amazing creature , but then it turns to be a damn biot who knows the language of the human visitors. I think that the aliens that built that Eagle could have done a better work , creating a more impressiv! ! e creature or I don't know !. Then we have the description of the technical cares taking place on the new Raman vessel , they are really cool. And then we have the horrible moment of revelation: The new ship it's going to be an used to carry 2000 humans on it , and some presence it's going to be monitoring their activities wile the ship it's hedding to it's unknown destination. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ?!?!. With that single argument all the mistery from R with Rama and Rama II simply vanished in the air.Then we have a 15 years old girl who marries an old 76 years old man , they got themselves locked in one room and have sex (And I can imagine that it wasn't to esciting for the 15 years old) How can a girl that age do that with a man old enough to be her grand dad ?. Then we have another journey 'till they get up in an awfull new Rama with localities with names as stupid as "Lake Shakespare". We have an argument promoting masturbation and then we are introduced to a who! ! le new line of flat and lacking of grace characters. Also w! e have what seems to be a bunch of dirty-diapers still not growed up problem makers drugs and sexualy obsessed adolescents who not only are doing sex all the time but also doing sex with people of their same gender , there is a very clear dialoge that states that. O.K to much sex was acceptable but homosexuality in a science fiction novel (is this sci-fi?) it's enough. Then we have a troubled 2000 people society that kills all of the avians and Richard for trying to prevent a war. I got so bored that I didn't finish the damn book. UnfortunatelI I feel compromised to read the next book I just hope it's better that this space based soap opera. Only because I have read other of Clarke's works I know he isn't a bad writer because this book is nothing but a pure failure.
on January 4, 1998
Allow me to be a little retrospective . The first book was a gem. Not often are there books which concentrate purely on the technological side and get away with little or no character development . The second was pleasing only towards the end although I found the need to explain life stories of characters profoundly irritating and often irrelevant . Who cares if Francesca is a slut ? I was hoping for a redemption of sorts in this third book but nope , didn't find it . If this book were set in an urban 20th century environment , it would be a mid-day soap opera with sex and drugs thrown in . As a science fiction novel , it somehow manages to discard most science . Maybe it was Lee's influence , maybe I just lost patience with the black and white characters . This book could have done with better characterisation , less politics , less pointless sex , less Shakespearen quotes and finally , a helluva lot more science fiction . Ultimately I was disappointed since I started reading this series with much enthusiasm and ended up flicking chapters just to see who would cark it next.
on April 25, 1998
Ok.... I admit that I have enjoyed reading the RAMA books, but not in the same way I enjoy reading other books written by Arthur C. Clarke, a man I consider to be one of the greatest writers ever. These books, except for the first one, are just action adventures/soap operas. There is nothing deep or anything that will make you think in these books. Reading this series is like watching Pro-Wrestling: you know it is ridiculous, but it keeps you entertained, so you keep watching/reading. For anyone who is not really into Sci-Fi, and is not looking for original ideas, but is looking for a bunch of pointless sex, this is a great book. I am really bothered that Clarke sunk to the level of writing a series with pathetic cliffhangers at the end to sucker a reader into buying another book in the series. He should leave that up to Diane Carey and Peter David who think that writing Star Trek novels is the same thing as writing Sci-Fi.