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Ahira's Hangar • View topic - Rendezvous With Rama, Chapter 1: Spaceguard

Ahira's Hangar

David Zindell's Neverness, A Requiem for Homo Sapiens and all things Science Fiction and Fantasy
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 Post subject: Rendezvous With Rama, Chapter 1: Spaceguard
PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 2:27 am 
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The novel begins simply: Sooner or later, it was bound to happen.

"It" being a meteorite collision early in the twentieth century, narrowly missing Moscow by four thousand kilometres. Then halfway through the century, "it" happened again - this time missing another Russian city, Vladivostok, by a mere four hundred kilometres. And there was nothing that humankind of that time could have done to protect itself against, as Clarke put it, "the last random shots in the cosmic bombardment that had once scarred the face of the Moon." Luckily, those two collisions occurred in uninhabited areas. But by the end of the 21st century, there was no area on Earth that humanity did not occupy.

Thus, in the summer of 2077, on the morning of September 11 (what an eerie coincidence that Clarke would choose a date so heavy with meaning in our time), we are told of a third meteorite collision of modern times. This one slams into northern Italy, obliterating the cities of Padua and Verona, and causing Venice to sink into the sea.

The sheer scale of this natural disaster causes humankind to unite in a way that it had never before: the human race pools its resources to ensure that Earth will never again be vulnerable to another meteor or other potentially deadly body from space. The elaborate planetary defense system that comes into existence is called Spaceguard.

Fifty years after its creation, Spaceguard indeed proves its worth when it detects a massive celestial object headed toward the Solar System. But this time it is not a meteor at all that has come visiting...

So, the line "sooner or later, it was bound to happen" could also be implied to mean Man's first contact with extra-terrestrial intelligence. After all, humans have a habit of bumping into superior alien powers in Clarke stories. :wink:


This is a very short introductory chapter - really more like a prologue. But what it describes is immediately compelling - nothing like woe and destruction to get your attention. Clarke wastes no time in providing a startling, cinematic opening - the kind of scene since used by a host of modern disaster movies, though Armageddon and Deep Impact come most readily to mind. It takes a tragedy of apocalyptic scale to motivate all of humankind to unified action, to distract it from its self-destructive ways. Perhaps it is naive of Clarke to suggest that human beings would suddenly cease hostilities toward each other - even for their own cosmic survival. There will certainly be jaded readers out there who may scoff at such a scenario, but to me it is credible enough within the context of this story. Besides, Clarke's idealism is one of the reasons why his work appeals to me.

Also, the scenario of big objects from space colliding with Earth is very relevant today, as witnessed by the close calls we've had in recent years.

I also want to say that this opening chapter establishes Clarke's outlook: that man is small and fragile against the impersonal and implacable cosmos, but that man also has the capacity to survive via his intelligence.


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 Post subject: Re: Rendezvous With Rama, Chapter 1: Spaceguard
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 5:33 am 
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Don't mind my term for my initial impression of the book-the word perihelion came to mind-don't ask me why. Yeah I was hard struck by the Sept. 11 reference, but the book was originally published when (sorry it's in the bedroom and Tam's a' ' snoozin') in 1978, or so? Like a lot of Clarke (and George R. R. Martin in fantasy) his writing is very "cinematic" or begs for translation on the silver screen.

By perihelion, I guess, I mean things entering entering our solar system and messing with everything we hold dear-this type of angle in SF seems extremely hard to pull off successfully. The best job I've seen of this being dealt with in literature is The Heart of the Comet by David Brin and Gregory Benford and Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell-with honorable mention to the latter's The Mote in God's Eye.

Sorry, but, I've never really seen this angle translated on film very well-however, I've never seen Deep Impact (the ideal of that movie and this chapter remind me of Zelazny's This Immortal) and parts of Armageddon bored me to tears. The Resolution Company has produced some great films lately and they are backed by many well know actors and are in development of Rendezvous with is slated to star Morgan Freeman. Since I'm barely past the chapter "Dawn" right now I have no ideal who he'll play...

Clarke sets a great pace, and even though the chapters are short they're almost self contained episodes leaving you begging for the next one.

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 Post subject: Re: Rendezvous With Rama, Chapter 1: Spaceguard
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 1:49 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Rendezvous With Rama, Chapter 1: Spaceguard
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 3:38 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Rendezvous With Rama, Chapter 1: Spaceguard
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:24 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Rendezvous With Rama, Chapter 1: Spaceguard
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 9:23 pm 
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I'm tempted to go all the way with this and send out another mass email, post an announcement on the Watch and move these chapters into The Spacing Guild. What do you think?

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 Post subject: Re: Rendezvous With Rama, Chapter 1: Spaceguard
PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 1:38 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Rendezvous With Rama, Chapter 1: Spaceguard
PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:07 pm 
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They had a really interesting article about asteroids/comets/space debris possibly hitting Earth, and the tracking of those objects in this month's National Geographic (the one with "Ancient Iran" on the front cover). 8)

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 Post subject: Re: Rendezvous With Rama, Chapter 1: Spaceguard
PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 3:24 am 
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Cool! I'll check to see if the library has a copy.


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