3001: The Final Odyssey
If I were going to write a novel about what human life might be like 1,000 years in the future, I know I'd want to give special attention to the question of whether males are still circumcised, and how that might affect their attractiveness to the opposite sex. That's what Arthur C. Clarke must've been thinking as he worked on the first hundred pages of this, the fourth and final entry in his 2001 series. In the second hundred pages, we get Clarke's laughably unintelligent screed against all religion--concluding with the assertion that everyone who has ever believed any religion is insane:
"Would you argue that anyone with strong religious beliefs was insane?"
"In a strictly technical sense, yes--if they really were sincere and not hypocrites. As I suspect ninety percent were." (142)Is there anyone reading who hasn't been offended in one way or another yet?
But none of that is as insulting as the awful, awful, awful writing and story in 3001. Once again, Clarke demonstrates his talent for creating boring characters who don't do anything interesting or important. In this story, the body of Frank Poole is recovered from the far reaches of the solar system, and--surprise!--he's still alive (and in perfect hibernation, to borrow from Lando). The reason for Frank's return is that Clarke needed Heywood Floyd but couldn't think of a way to make Floyd live till 3001. So he brought Heywood back, but now called Frank Poole.
But even if the philosophical outlook was insulting and the characters were bland, there was still a chance that the plot might have been intriguing. But no. The ultimate resolution of the monolith mystery is that we never know for certain anything about the Firstborn. And then everything is solved with a hard drive full of computer viruses. Seriously. Oh, and Clarke does his gimmick of reusing entire chapters from previous books. So every now and then I would be reading, and suddenly think, "Wait a minute--is this that same chapter again??" Yes: it happens five times in 3001.
My reviews of the other books in the series: