Book Review – Rendezvous With Rama

It’s time to take a look at another classic science fiction novel, that currently hasn’t been reviewed on the site – Arthur C. Clarke’s classic “Big Dumb Object” novel – Rendezvous With Rama.

Title: Rendezvous With Rama
Author: Arthur C. Clarke
ISBN: 0613069498
Publication Date: June-August 1973
Available from Amazon.com

Premise:

After an asteroid spotting agency – SpaceGuard – discovers an artificially created object entering our solar system, which they call “Rama”, a team is sent to board the ship to explore it, find out who built it, and why.

High Points:

Rama is incredibly well written and described. Frankly, Rama is quite possibly the most fleshed out character in the entire book – even more than Middle Earth and its history is in The Lord of the Rings.

Low Points:

Unfortunately, every other character in the book is a cardboard cutout by comparison. The captain of the Endeavour, the ship sent for the titular Rendezvous, gets some character development, but that’s pretty much it.

Scores:

Originality: Well, this is not the first work of “Big Dumb Object” Science Fiction (a little research shows that Quartermass and the Pit might be the first). However, I would say that this and Larry Niven’s Ringworld are the ur-examples of the sub-genre. 4/6
Imagery: Clarke paints an incredibly vivid picture of Rama with words. 6/6
Story: The concept is good, and the sections of the story focusing on the exploration of Rama are interesting. However, there is very little actual conflict in the story, and much of what we get feels shoe-horned in. 4/6
Characterization: While the archtypes of the characters in the story are believable, they aren’t necessarily interesting, or in any way fleshed out beyond their archtypes. 2/6
Emotional Response: As a reader, I’m intersted in learning more about Rama, who built it, why, and how it works. However, I do not care in the slightest about the people doing the exploration. 4/6
Editing: 5/6
Overall: This book is widely regarded as a classic of science fiction, and due to its excellent world-building, I’d agree. 5/6.

In total, Rendezvous with Rama gets 31/42.

3 replies on “Book Review – Rendezvous With Rama”

  1. As big a place in my heart as I have for this book, I just can’t bring myself to disagree with your Low Point. The characters are dry, almost barren.

    I love this book, however. I found the premise fascinating and interesting. I think I can point to this book as my first “hard” Sci-Fi book (Star Trek and Star Wars books before this point in my reading career). The concept of the biots is one I still keep with me as one of the most inventive bits of Sci-Fi.

    The latter books have much better characters and spend more time explaining what Rama is/was. If you liked the premise, but not the characters, don’t let the stop you from picking up the rest of the series (starting with Rama II).

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      SF history contains quite a few of these: mind-blowing novels with dry-as-dust, underdeveloped characters. It’s one of the reasons some mundane types dislike SF, but a book can still succeed in the way that this one does– and of course a lot of other SF writers understand how to write character.

  2. Jethro says:

    I should re-read this.

    However, I was very very disappointed that there were sequels. Frankly one of my biggest motivations in becoming a writer myself was so I could show people it’s possible to just friggin write ONE BOOK and let it go. I’M LOOKING AT YOU GEORGE R R MARTIN.

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