2061: Odyssey Three

From Academic Kids

2061: Odyssey Three (1987) is a science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke, and is the third book in the Space Odyssey series.


Because the Odyssey series is closely concerned with Jupiter and its moons, Clarke had originally intended to delay writing a third book until the Galileo mission to the planet had returned its findings. However, the probe's launch was delayed in the aftermath of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster so that it would not arrive at Jupiter until 1995. Deciding not to wait, Clarke instead took his inspiration from the approach of Comet Halley in 1986 and focused his sequel on the comet's future return, in 2061.


In the previous novel, 2010: Odyssey Two, Jupiter was converted into a mini-sun which was dubbed "Lucifer" following the Russian ship Leonov's mission to Jupiter to find out what happened to the Discovery. A message was sent to Earth by Dave Bowman, through HAL: ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS, EXCEPT EUROPA. ATTEMPT NO LANDINGS THERE. This is due to the discovery of alien life in Europa's ocean, which was frozen over at the surface until Lucifer melted the ice and caused an atmosphere to form.

When the Leonov returned to Earth, Heywood Floyd (whose marriage had broken down while he was on the Leonov) suffered an accident and had to be shipped up to the orbital station Pasteur for care. His body refused to heal and he later became a permanent resident after finding that his body could no longer handle Earth-level gravity. When a grown man, Floyd's son Chris died in the "Copernicus Disaster", leaving behind a son Chris II. In 2061 Chris Floyd II works on the spacecraft Galaxy, and hasn't seen his grandfather in years.

Between 2010 and 2061, there have been several advancements, both technological and political. The USA, USSR and China are now at peace with each other, all nuclear weapons are now under international control, and there is now a Planetary President (a former monarch, Edward VIII - his country of origin is not specified). The black population of South Africa rebelled in the 2030s and formed the United States of Southern Africa (USSA) - the white population of South Africa had seen it coming and mostly fled back to Europe, taking most of the country's wealth with them and leaving the black population to rebuild the ecomony, which they did in a matter of weeks by use of diamonds (it is worth noting that this book was written in 1987, at which time the USSR was still federated and apartheid was still in force). Space travel has undergone many startling advancements, with the largest such corporation being Tsung Spacelines run by Hong Kong billionaire Sir Lawrence Tsung (the manufacturers of the crafts Cosmos, Galaxy and most recently Universe).

Most strange of all, there has been a startling development on Europa: an enormous mountain has sprung up out of nowhere. No one is sure of the origin of "Mount Zeus" - it is worth noting that it is asymmetrical, and cannot be a volcano.

In 2061, at the age of 103, Floyd is chosen as one of several "celebrity guests" to come aboard the Universe for the first ever landing on Halley's Comet which is now making its pass through the solar system once more. Other celebrities on the voyage include septegenarian actress Yva Merlin (most famous for her roles as Josephine Bonaparte in Napoleon and as Scarlett O'Hara in a remake of Gone With the Wind), writer Margaret M'Bala (known for her book on Greek mythology The Passions of the Gods - sometimes derisively called "Olympic Lusts"), astronaut Clifford Greenburg (first man to land on Mercury), symphony conductor and composer Dimitri Mihailovich, and celebrity "pop-scientist" Victor Willis. The captain on the Universe is Captain Smith.

Meanwhile, there is a team of scientists on Ganymede who are working on terraforming the former moon. Scientist Rolf van der Berg, a second-generation Afrikaner refugee, studies pictures of Mount Zeus and determines that it is in fact one enormous diamond. He communicates his discovery to his uncle Paul Kreuger, speaking in Afrikaans as a security measure because it is now an endangered language, and decide that van der Berg will get aboard the Galaxy on their flyby of Europa in order to try and see if he is correct. However, their exchange is discovered both by SHAKA (a secret militant organisation for the USSA, named for Shaka) and ASTROPOL (similar to Interpol). SHAKA send an operative called Rose McCullen onto Galaxy undercover as a stewardess, and ASTROPOL approach Chris Floyd II on Ganymede and tell him to "keep his ears open".

While flying by Europa, Rose McCullen hijacks the Galaxy by sealing the cockpit and holding the pilot, Second Officer Chang, at gunpoint. She forces Chang to pilot the Galaxy down to Europa's surface, but upon the attempt to land Galaxy is forced to abort, and eventually splashes down into Europa's ocean "the Sea of Galilee". Chang takes Rose's gun and kills her, immediately fainting afterwards.

Universe recieves the news that Galaxy is marooned on Europa, and that they need to undertake a rescue mission. Second Officer Jolson comes up with a plan that will mean that Universe won't need to fly back to the moon for water fuel: they can collect the water being sprayed out of Halley's geyser "Old Faithful". When fully fuelled Universe heads for Europa, travelling so fast they acquire the world record for the fastest-travelling man-made object ever.

Meanwhile, Galaxy's captain Laplace steps down for Acting Captain Lee, who is a professional sailor. Acting Captain Lee pilots Galaxy through the water to come to the shore of a small rather dismal island named Haven. Captain Laplace takes command again, and is suggested to that Rolf van der Berg and Chris Floyd II take the shuttle William Tsung or Bill Tee (named after Sir Lawence Tsung's son William) to study Mount Zeus, the wreck of the Chinese spacecraft Tsien and the enormous monolith lying on its side at the border between the dayside and nightside, dubbed the Great Wall. Captain Laplace authorises it, and so van der Berg and Chris take the Bill Tee to Mount Zeus. Up close, van der Berg relays a message to his uncle Paul through Ganymede stating "LUCY IS HERE", verifying that Mount Zeus is indeed one large diamond. The code word "Lucy" was chosen both in reference to the mini-sun Lucifer and to an article in Nature magazine in 1981 hypothesising that the core of Jupiter was in fact a diamond the size of Earth, caused by the compression of carbon. The article was subtitled "Diamonds in the Sky?" in reference to the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". Mount Zeus is a fragment of Jupiter's core which survived the creation of Lucifer and later collided with Europa.

On the Universe, the celebrity guests discuss the mystery surrounding Dave Bowman and the monoliths, and whether they'd be allowed to land on Europa to rescue Galaxy. Yva Merlin suggests to Floyd that he simply try to call Bowman on the radio. Floyd does so. That night he has a strange dream, wakes up and finds the monolith at the foot of his bed.

The Bill Tee flies by Tsien, which has been completely stripped of its metals, and on to the Great Wall. In the shadow of the Great Wall they find a deserted Europan village made up of igloo-like structures. An image of Heywood Floyd appears to Chris in the same way that Dave Bowman appeared to Floyd in 2010, telling him that the Universe was coming and that the Europans had left until "the wind blows the poison away". Van der Berg thinks that Chris is crazy until he realises that the heat of the engine cracked the steam exhaust of the Bill Tee into hydrogen and oxygen, oxygen being poisonous to Europans. The shuttle's fuel is expended so they wait there until the Universe arrives.

Chris contacts Universe and finds that his grandfather is not dead at all, but alive and well. Once the crew are rescued and brought to Ganymede, they see footage as Mount Zeus, which has been steadily sinking, finally disappears beneath the surface. Floyd and Chris II become close again, and both become friends with van der Berg. They talk about how Floyd called Bowman on the radio, and Chris asks "Did you ever get a reply?" Floyd almost tells his grandson about the monolith in his cabin, but doesn't after rationalising that it was probably a dream.

As it turns out, it wasn't a dream. The monolith duplicated Floyd's consciousness: there are now two Heywood Floyds - one is a normal human who has just found a new lease on life, and the other is an immortal being who resides with Dave Bowman and Hal inside the Great Wall. The three immortal beings converse, and Floyd finds out that the impact of Mount Zeus set Europa's life back by years and caused the extinction of many promising species. Dave tells him of how the Jovian aliens had to be exterminated in the creation of Lucifer so that the Europans might survive, and tells Floyd that they have less than a thousand years to work in.

In the epilogue, in 3001 Lucifer finally extinguishes. And "the monolith awakes".

Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

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