As a general rule, I try not to compare a movie to it’s book, or in this case, since I’d seen the movie first, a book to it’s movie. 2001 stands alone, however, in that Clarke and Kubrick wrote the book and the screenplay in tandem, with feedback in each direction. Kubrick’s movie is a masterpiece of cinematography and score, and despite not really knowing what it’s about, as a viewer, you’re able to let yourself be swept along by the surreal beauty of the story without question.
Clarke’s novel undeniably fills in the gaps that the movie cannot, while still creating just as much suspense and power. The opening “Dawn of Man” scene was much more interesting. For example, the appearance of the monolith is shocking to Moon Watcher’s tribe, but is soon forgotten, although it continues to work unconsciously on the ape-men, as a means to push forward evolution ever so slightly by the use of tools. The subsequent monolith find on the moon in the future prompts the mission to one of Saturn’s moons, which was the direction the monolith sent out a signal as soon as it was activated by the sun. The motives of HAL 9000 are set straight, as it’s a naive thought that a conscious computer is inherently evil (see copious other works of AI wars against humanity). The even greater monolith find by Dave pushes evolution forward yet again, and the subsequent psychedelic hotel room scene is rationalized. With all these examples, don’t expect the book to spell everything out. It still retains some mysteries that are open to interpretation.
I suspect that if only the book had been created, I would have given it 4 out of 5 stars, because of the weird Clarke-esque ending. Don’t get me wrong, I have immensely enjoyed all of the Clarke books I’ve read, and I would easily classify him as one of the sci-fi greats. However, his stories often end with a dissolve away from science, into some sort of mystical collective consciousness or evolution to pure mind beings. I understand this is not necessarily a bad thing, but the New Age movement since has left a bad taste in my mouth. However, since the book and the movie are inextricably paired in my mind, the abstract ending actually feels good here. I hereby acknowledge and apologize for my own self-inconsistency, but this book is amazing!
“The thing’s hollow. It goes on forever and… oh my god, it’s full of stars.”