The Final Odyssey

Today finds me at TusCon in Tucson, Arizona where you’ll find me on panels and selling books in the dealer’s room. If you’re in town, I hope you’ll drop by. This is my last convention of the year. One of the things I like about science fiction conventions is the opportunity to celebrate our favorite books, so I thought this was a good opportunity to delve into the final novel of Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey series.

I think the most difficult scene for me to watch in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is the scene where astronaut Frank Poole, played by Gary Lockwood, must go outside the spaceship Discovery to repair the communication antenna. In that scene, the computer HAL sends a space pod at Poole, knocking him away from the ship and dislodging his air supply. Dave Bowman, played by Keir Dullea, valiantly hops into another pod to try to rescue him. Meanwhile, we see Poole frantically trying to reattach his air hose in silence. The scene is tragic and sad, especially when we realize that Bowman is too late and that Poole has likely died as a result of HAL’s attack. Still, Bowman retrieves Poole’s body, but must let it go when HAL won’t let him back into the ship.

After a brief prelude introducing us to the creators of the infamous monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the novel 3001: The Final Odyssey opens aboard the comet-chasing space vessel Goliath. The ship is diverted from its mission to capture and send a water-filled comet into the inner solar system to intercept a small two-meter-long object which has been detected near them. It turns out, the object is none other than the body of Frank Poole, adrift for a thousand years. In the very next chapter, Poole wakes up. It turns out, his death was so quick and he was so well preserved in his space suit that using the technology of a thousand years in the future, doctors could revive Poole. The next part of the story becomes something of a Rip Van Winkle tale as Poole, essentially a man from our time, gets to explore the world as it will be one thousand years in the future.

Poole finds himself in something of a Utopia, where humans have built a gigantic ring around the Earth, connected to the planet by space elevators. While humanity hasn’t left the confines of the solar system, they have colonized many of its worlds, including Jupiter’s large moon, Ganymede. Venus is in the process of being terraformed. Crime has become a treatable mental illness and even a few dinosaurs have been brought back. Because this is Arthur C. Clarke, he backs up his ideas with enough science and engineering to make them at least sound plausible. Because this is the final book in the Space Odyssey series, you know the mysterious monoliths aren’t yet finished with humans or the lifeforms they’ve decided to prod on Jupiter’s moon Europa. Even though the book is now fifteen years old, I hesitate to say much more, lest I spoil the ending, but I will say that Clarke does reveal more about the nature of the monoliths, what happened to Dave Bowman and Hal, but keeps the makers of the monoliths somewhat enigmatic.

Overall, I like the fact that Clarke gave us a more satisfying conclusion to Frank Poole’s story, especially after spending so much time with the fate of Dave Bowman in the previous volumes. One of my favorite moments in the book has to do with Poole being a Star Trek fan who got to meet Leonard Nimoy and Patrick Stewart. Of course, in real life, before 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gary Lockwood played Gary Mitchell, navigator of the USS Enterprise in the second pilot of Star Trek. So, he did meet Leonard Nimoy! Another nice feature of this novel is that he concludes with an extended afterward discussing the science and engineering he based the novel’s ideas on.

It was also fun to compare Clarke’s vision of the future to the future I imagine in my Space Pirates’ Legacy series. Like Clarke’s novel, mine is set a thousand years in the future. My future isn’t a utopian one and it struck me after reading Tales of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, which is set a full 10,000 years in the future, that my vision is somewhere between the two. The one thing we all have in common is that we’ve all been inspired by real scientific ideas. You can learn more about my Space Pirates’ Legacy series at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#pirate_legacy

A Man Among Ye

I love a good pirate story. Given that I have written a series about space pirates, that should come as no surprise, but I’m pleased to read a well-told tale about pirates in any era. One of the reasons pirate stories appeal to me is that pirates exist outside the norms of social propriety. Because of that, you can use them as a way to examine social structures and moral codes. Do those structures, laws, and moral codes keep people from harm, or are they about keeping certain people in power? They’re also interesting in a narrative sense, because the best pirate stories explore these kinds of issues while giving us an anti-hero we can root for and putting them into a situation that’s fun and exciting to watch.

Tom Hutchison, owner of Big Dog Ink comics, has a show on the Comic Book Shopping Network called the Midnight Collector’s Club, where he sells interesting collectable and new titles from other comic companies. One of the books he showed off was issue number one of A Man Among Ye written by Stephanie Phillips and featuring art by Craig Cermak. The cover caught my eye as something that looked like it took on the topic of pirates in a way that was both serious and fun. I read the first issue and immediately wanted to know what happened next. I lucked out and my local comic shop had issue 2.

The time period and general setting of the comic will be familiar to viewers of the series Black Sails. The protagonist is Anne Bonney. She’s aboard the Kingston, commanded by Calico Jack Rackham. We have some scenes on Nassau and Charles Vane makes an appearance. Unlike Black Sails, we’re not mixing in characters from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. It’s clear Stephanie Phillips has read many accounts of real life pirates and is both inspired by them and understands their limitations.

A Man Among Ye opens with the crew of the Kingston raiding a British ship. A young sailor from the British ship survives and sneaks about the Kingston. The young sailor soon proves to be Mary Read. Those who know their pirate history will recognize Mary as another real-life pirate who sailed with Rackham and Bonney. As the story progresses, we discover that not all the crew are happy about Anne Bonney’s presence on the Kingston or with Rackham’s captaincy. A sailor named Biff makes plans to dispatch Bonney and lead a mutiny against Rackham. All of this makes for an exciting and thrill-packed adventure story. Phillips shows a deft hand in her scripting by keeping the action moving and making me want to turn the page to see what happens next.

While there’s plenty of action, there’s also an exploration of women’s roles in society. We learn that Anne was expected to marry and become a housewife. She rejected that life to become a pirate, but clearly not all pirates think she has a place among them and they are even less thrilled when young Mary Read shows up. Even beyond that, there’s some mythological underpinning with the story taking some inspiration from the Greek myth of Actaeon and Artemis. Two issues in and I’m hooked. If you’re looking for a good rip-roaring pirate yarn that will also make you think a little more about society and its structures, check out A Man Among Ye. If you want to do the same, but in space, checkout my Space Pirates’ Legacy Series.