The novel “2010: Odyssey Two” by Arthur C. Clarke was published for the first time in 1982. It’s the second book of the Odyssey series in space and the sequel to “2001: A Space Odyssey“.
Nine years have passed since the Discovery spaceship’s disaster and on Earth no one yet knows what really happened. The observations indicate that its orbit has become unstable with the prospect that it might falls to Jupiter. Its destruction would mean losing any hope of finding out what happened to the expedition.
For the USA it’s impossible to set up a rescue mission that could arrive in time while the USSR has already been setting one up for some time. Heywood Floyd and Dr. Chandra, the creator of HAL 9000, leave on the spaceship Leonov to Jupiter, where the Discovery is waiting for them but also the version of the monolith larger than that discovered on the Moon.
For Arthur C. Clarke “2001: A Space Odyssey” was a self-concluding story and for several years he thought it wasn’t possible to give it a sequel. However, the monoliths had remained mysterious together with David Bowman’s destiny, facts that were good for the movie but left several possibilities open. In addition, in 1979 NASA’s Voyager Space Probes passed near Jupiter taking the first good quality photos of some of its moons, including Europa.
The characteristics of Europa’s frozen surface, full of breaks, represented an important indication of Jupiter’s gravity influence and of the possibility of liquid water in that moon’s subsoil. This led to the first speculations about the presence of life forms in that underground ocean.
The novel “2001: A Space Odyssey” ended in Saturn’s system but Stanley Kubrick decided to eliminate that stage of the journey to focus on the rest of his movie’s plot. This gave Clarke the opportunity to write a sequel to the movie rather than the first novel.
“2010: Odyssey Two” was written when the USSR still existed and the Cold War with the USA was under way. There was a collaboration between their space programs with the 1975 space meeting between an American Apollo spacecraft and a Soviet Soyuz but for that period the idea of a deep space mission where staff of both superpowers worked together was very strong.
The first part of “2010: Odyssey Two” contains typical elements of Arthur C. Clarke with all the descriptions associated with the spaceship Leonov’s journey. He’s an author who for decades has told technical-scientific details of possible missions in deep space, including possible dangers.
The novel contains many mentions of scientists important in astronautics and rocket science including various Soviet dissidents, beginning with the Nobel Peace Prize Andrei Sakharov. In short, he describes a collaboration between the USA and the USSR but without forgetting certain problems of the time.
The story of the Leonov’s journey includes Arthur C. Clarke’s flaws. The characters have some development, including some backstory, but often look secondary and useful especially to develop the mission’s story. David Bowman, who at the end of “2001: A Space Odyssey” was transformed into some sort of post-human, ended up being the most cured character in this second novel.
In my opinion, the story of the Leonov’s mission is interesting, also for its scientific speculations. In the case of Europa, we can’t yet say whether there are life forms in its underground ocean: the latest discoveries on plumes rising from the icy surface showing underground activity were announced in April 2017 but they’re only the latest clues of its potential. Arthur C. Clarke had developed ideas based on early speculations at the beginning of the 1980s.
The many technical-scientific elements make the pace in “2010: Odyssey Two” often slow but in the second half it accelerates along with the events taking place in Jupiter’s system. It’s the part where a high sense-of-wonder level is concentrated in which I think Arthur C. Clarke gives his best.
“2010: Odyssey Two” was adapted into a movie titled “2010”, also known as “2010: The Year We Make Contact”. The screenplay contains a number of differences with respect to the novel but the result is in my opinion good and the problem is that it’s a sequel to a great masterpiece so it’s overlooked.
Because of its characteristics and in particular its technical-scientific contents that make it sometimes not easy to read, “2010: Odyssey Two” is a novel that especially those who appreciate hard science fiction might like. In my opinion, it’s overall a very good novel so if you like that kind of story I recommend reading it.