This is one of the most fascinating books I’ve reviewed yet!
Most of the time, in regards to book and movie adaptations, one comes before the other. Someone will write a book that’ll later be turned into a movie or a movie will get a book adaptation. Because of this process, there is always a divide between either version. Movies will have to trim material from the book while a book might add extra stuff on top of what was already there.
2001: A Space Odyssey is unique in that regard. The book technically started life before the movie in order to give director Stanley Kubrick an outline for his movie’s story. It was supposed to be released either before or alongside the movie, either as a promotional thing or to make some quick cash. But for whatever reason, the movie came out first and the book would follow later.
Because of this unique process, the stories between the book and the movie are very small. Most of them are so small that they’re basically inconsequential. It’s interesting to think about.
And that’s all before we talk about the book itself.
To be very brief: the majority of the story focuses on Discovery One, a ship bound for Saturn (it’s Jupiter in the movie) manned by Dr. David Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole with the help of HAL 9000. Their mission: observe the planet, do some studying, then get home. At least, that’s what they’re told. But when HAL starts to go haywire, things take a dark and dangerous turn.
I am leaving a lot out of that summary. Maybe I don’t need to; the movie’s been around for… over fifty years now? The book almost just as long? But some people may not have seen it or read this yet, so I’ll play it safe. Just know: this shit gets fucking weird, dude! Like, super weird! No, no matter how weird you’re thinking, it’s not enough and you’re wrong! You could take acid and mushrooms at the same time and not come up with shit as crazy as what’s in this book?
But I will say: space baby. What the fuck is up with that?
Forget that, though! You know what’s super fucking scary?! HAL 9000! A malfunctioning AI that has complete control over whether you live or die?! One that can flush you into the cold void of space on a whim?! That’s fucking terrifying, dude!! And this book explores that to spectacular effect! When HAL goes haywire, it’s some of the most uncomfortable, scary shit I’ve ever read!
Shame it doesn’t last all that long…
Character wise, this book is kinda weak. None of the human characters have all that much personality to them, so they aren’t especially interesting or memorable. They may as well be named “Blank Face McScientist Man” or something like that.
The pacing is also kinda wonky. Some scenes last way too long, with way too much detail being put into just about everything. These descriptions get super long and tedious, making it easy to start spacing out and skim reading. For all the shit in this book that is incredibly bizarre, interesting, and terrifying, there’s something that is overly explained and boring.
However! Even with that, I still think this is a good book. It’s one of the few books that actually made me feel scared and to alienate me! 2001 is an incredibly fascinating bit of science fiction, one that I feel has aged fairly well. If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend giving it a shot!
Or you could just watch the movie. Like most people do.