Thursday, September 22, 2016

Rama Revealed, by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee

All right, so I hate to say it but...mistakes were made. I probably should have just stuck with the first Rama book. Maybe the second one. But I should not have gone into this insane tedium that is the rest of the series. I know that sounds like hyperbole on my part, and I am exaggerating but not by a whole lot. Finishing this book felt like a chore more than anything else and I highly recommend everyone avoid this book at all costs.

Plot wise...this book suffers a lot and I think part of it is because it's so goddamn long. This book weighs in at about six hundred pages, definitely the longest book in the series so far, and there's just not a lot going on through the book to keep me interested. Basically the main characters we've been following, Nicole, Richard, and their friends and family, escape from the growing tyranny of the police state of New Eden. Eventually they meet up with the octospiders, who have been in the background for most of the series as a spooky ''other'' that we didn't quite understand. Except now they're all super ethical and nice and a truly advanced species that just wants to be friends with the humans. Which doesn't quite line up with what we've seen them do in previous books, but that's explained away as being a different group of octospiders.

The book then spends a lot of time following the humans as they experience octospider society with all its crazy technology and quaint customs and talking through colors. Sort of typical science-fiction ''hey look, it's the future and it's different, how weird is that?'' It just gets really boring after the first hundred pages or so and I found myself wishing it would end. Also, much to nobody's surprise the humans eventually declare war on the octospiders because humans are xenophobic killing machines. The war continues for a while, then the octospiders unleash a plague as a warning, and then the machines step in and end the fighting by knocking everyone out with crazy sleep gas.

No seriously, that's the resolution. Both sides are made to go to sleep and then the computers resegregate them on another space station until they figure out which pens to put humans and octospiders into. After that there's more humans being asshole xenophobes and then the revelation that this is all part of some lab experiment God's running to create a harmonious universe. Which honestly, after everything we've gone through and how boring it's been, it comes across as a facile answer that wasn't worth the effort. And yes, I'm using a word I went to the dictionary for, but if the author can start throwing phthisic around at the end of the book I can use one slightly easier to pronounce.

It just feels like a lot of wasted effort because there are some questions or issues that the authors raise which could have been good storylines, but instead they decide to make one of the more tedious books I've ever read. For example, Benjy's mental disabilities are brought up a couple of times and it's vaguely mentioned he seems to be struggling with the fact that he can see children younger than him learning more quickly than he is, and it's discouraging. And that could have been a really heartfelt and meaningful story. But instead we need to talk about octospider society some more. Oh, speaking of octospiders. So there's all this emphasis that they're a moral and far more developed society than us psychotic apes. (I mean, yes, we are psychotic apes but I feel they take it out on our species too much.) So would someone care to explain to me why they're keeping humans in their zoo? Not even kidding, they keep a human family in their zoo. And when Nicole finds this out she's like, ''I'm going to have some serious questions for the octospiders about this''. And then...she never gets around to asking about it. It's almost like there was this whole plot set up for the octospiders to actually be less good than they initially appeared to us humans, but it got abandoned at the last minute because it was too much work or something.

This is to say nothing about Katie's drug addiction, which is played for drama like so many other serious issues in this book. Whole books have been written about drug addiction, but in this book it's just there to make the book more serious and show how far a character's fallen, rather than making her a more three dimensional character. The feeling more is that it's just there, along with almost everything else that isn't ''Oh man, how great are the octospiders?'' to create something resembling drama. But it's so watered down that the book feels like an uphill slog more than anything else.

So yes, I regret reading this book and pursuing this series. The last book was pretty bad and this one was just incredibly boring interspersed with doses of unnecessary drama or straight up crazy. I might wish this book on my worst enemy, but I'd probably feel bad afterwards.

- Kalpar

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