In his foreword to 2061: Odyssey Three, Arthur C. Clarke wrote that scientific advances kept this book from being a “linear sequel” having “perfect consistency” with the previous volume, let alone the original 2001 (vii). Unlike the case of the first book, though, he did not allow the changes in the cinematic version of 2010 to usurp the narrative of this novel. The fate of the Chinese exploratory vessel Tsien, so important to the second book and omitted from the film, is still a fact in this third book.
Despite teasing out at great length a plot reveal regarding Mount Zeus on the Jovian moon Europa, this book does not have the sort of cosmic “punch” of either of the two previous volumes. It is a pleasant read, though. By 2061, interplanetary travel is on its way to being routinized as a luxury product, and we are treated to centenarian Floyd hobnobbing with the cultural elite.
The story stirs in some normalized homosexuality in the persons of Floyd’s longtime friends George and Jerry. And there is a curious little thumbnail history of gay military conquerors in Chapter 40 “Monsters from Earth.” By Clarke’s standards, he was really tipping his hand here, but I can’t help noticing that Delany had already written Flight from Nevèrÿon a couple of years earlier.
Clarke thought the Beatles would descend into obscurity by 2061 (220). I suppose that will be true in the event of a civilizational collapse, but not in the interplanetary expansion of the Anglosphere that this book contemplates.
I have been attending to esoteric readings of the Odyssey Sequence, and while this volume seems to have less to offer on that front, there is some packed into the final chapters. . . (Spoiler: hover over to reveal) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . There is also a strong suggestion that the artificial star Lucifer presides over an apocalyptic Millennium from 2001 to 3001.