Book Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Book Name: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Author: Arthur C. Clarke
First Published: 1968

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke was considered one of the “big three” founders of the genre of science fiction, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Issac Asimov. He was a British science fiction author, futurist, inventor, undersea explorer and a television series host. He is the recipient of numerous Hugo and Nebula awards.

Clarke was born in Somerset, England and grew up in Bishops Lydeard. He grew up on a farm and spent his youth stargazing and reading old American science fiction pulp magazines. As a teenager, he joined the British Interplanetary Society and proposed a satellite communication system idea that later won him the Franklin Institute’s Stuart Ballantine Medal and other honors. Later in life, he would go on to become the chairman of the Institute.

During World War II, he served in the Royal Air Force as a radio specialist. His work in the early warning radar defense system helped contribute to the RAF’s victories during the Battle of Britain. He also served in the ranks, starting as a corporal instructor on radar and then was commissioned as a Pilot Officer and later as a Flying Officer. By the end of the war, he was the chief training instructor at RAF Honiley at Warwickshire with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

When the war ended, he returned to school and earned a degree in mathematics and physics from King’s College London. It was during this time that he wrote many articles about telecommunication relays and geostationary satellites. He wrote many non-fiction books describing the technical details and implications of rocketry and space flight. In recognition of his work in the field, the geostationary orbit 22,000 miles above the equator is known officially as a Clarke Orbit.

In 1956, Clarke emigrated to Sri Lanka, the official reason was to pursue his interest in scuba diving. He discovered the underwater ruins of an Koneswaram Temple in Trincomalee. Although it was not made public at the time, Clarke had become close to a Sri Lankan man, Leslie Ekanayake, whom Clarke called his “only perfect friend of a lifetime” in a dedication in one of his novels.

By this time, Clarke had written many books, both technical non-fiction and science fiction. However, his crowning achievement would be a movie that brought his work into the mainstream. 2001: A Space Odyssey began as a 1968 movie developed in concert Clark and filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Both developed the story as the film was shot, but in the end, only Arthur C. Clark was credited with writing both the film and the movie. The story is based on various short stories by Clark, but the one used the most was The Sentinel of Eternity (1948), a story he wrote for a BBC competition. Although Sir Arthur C. Clarke has published well over 100 novels, many of them winners of the Hugo and Nebula awards, he is most famous for this novel and the accompanying movie. It is an enduring classic film that has stood up to the test of time.

The author lived in Sri Lanka until his death in 2008, being knighted in 2000 by Queen Elizabeth, although he was in poor health and could not receive the honor in person. He was also awarded Sri Lanka’s highest civil honor, Sri Lankabhimanya in 2005. Clarke chose to be buried with Ekanayake in the Colombo central cemetery upon his death. Although he had been married to a woman for a short time in 1953, it is thought that he chose to emigrate to Sri Lanka where homosexuality was more tolerated at that time. He had no children.

“He was moving through a new order of creation, of which few men had ever dreamed. Beyond the realms of sea and land and air and space lay the realms of fire, which he alone had been privileged to glimpse. It was too much to expect that he would also understand.”
― Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey is a series of vignettes about an ancient and unknown race of aliens that use a device in the shape of a monolith to encourage the development of intelligent life. The first occurrence on Earth appears in ancient Africa four million years ago where it helps a group of proto-humans to invent tools. The clubs they develop help them kill animals and thus allow them to eat meat and survive.

The book then moves ahead to 1999, showing Dr. Floyd’s journey to Clavius Base on the Moon. He attends a meeting where another monolith is discovered, this one is the first known in human history. How it got there on the Moon is a mystery. Floyd and a team of scientists are viewing the monolith when the sun touched upon it. The monolith sends a radio transmission to one of the moons of Saturn, Iapetus. The scientists decide to investigate further and plan a mission to the moon.

The next vignette features Astronaut David Bowman and Francis Poole. Their ship is guided by a computer, HAL 9000 who is an AI. HAL tells Bowman that one of the units in the ship is faulty, but when Poole goes to check on it, he finds that there is nothing wrong. Bowman and Poole consult with Earth and are told to disconnect HAL for analysis. The instructions on how to do this are interrupted by a broken signal and HAL informs the two astronauts that the same unit has malfunctioned.

Poole goes EVA to remove the malfunctioning unit and is killed when his spacesuit is ripped. Bowman is suspicious that HAL may have had something to do with Poole’s “accident”. He decides to wake the other three astronauts who are in deep sleep, not only for their safty, but because he feels he needs help. As he starts their awakening process, HAL opens both airlocks. Bowman manages to escape in an emergency shelter and from there he is able to shut down the AI’s consciousness.

Upon contacting Earth, he learns that his mission is not just to explore Iapetus, the moon around Saturn, but to seek out the aliens that created the monolith on the Moon. The astronaut discovers that there is another monolith on the Iapetus, but it is much larger than the one that had been buried on the Moon. As he approaches it, the monolith opens up and swallows him. The last message Bowman sends back to Earth is, “The thing’s hollow – it goes on forever – and – oh my God! – it’s full of stars!”

What happens next is astonishing and you’ll have to read the book to find out all the details.

2001 A Space Odyssey book coverI have not read many of Clarke’s novels. They always seemed to be a little dry to me, more high concept than character driven. Yet, I can not deny the impact that this “big three” author has had on the genre.

I was introduced to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey at filmschool. Stanley Kubrick is a much studied and renown filmmaker and the collaboration he did with Clarke created a piece of cinema that is a stand-alone classic that should be seen. Until I researched this book review, I had not realized that Kubrick and Clarke had worked as partners on the story and I believe this accounts for the highly visual and emotional impact of both film and book. The details of Clarke’s novel are similar to the movie (the book goes to Saturn and the movie to Jupiter), but the science is more explained by Clarke and the ambiguous ending of the film is not a part of the book. Clarke gives you a resolution worthy of a grandmaster of science fiction. I am glad that I have read 2001: A Space Odyssey and seen the movie. Both are classics that every lover of science fiction should partake.

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksWelcome back to another Monday of writer’s links from No Wasted Ink. This week I was looking at articles about blogging and the general writing process. I also happened on an article about JRR Tolkien’s other works, the writing he did as a historical researcher. If you are a fan of Tolkien, as I am, you should check it out.

The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t

Jorge Luis Borges on Writing: Wisdom from His Most Candid Interviews

Claiming Your Power as a Writer

10 Ways To Stay Productive as a Work-at-Home Blogger

No. You Don’t Have to “Write Every Day.”

Tolkien, the Battle of Finnsburg and Hengest


How to change your “away” mindset – and why you should

Indie Publishing Paths: What’s Your Distribution Plan? Part One

A manifesto for self-publishing authors

Text-To-Speech (TTL) as Editing Aid for Writers

As authors, hearing your manuscript read out-loud is an important step in the editing process. By listening to your text, minor glitches in your writing stand out and are more easily corrected. While many of us do read our work ourselves, it is often better when someone else reads your work so that you can focus your attention on errors and making a note of them on your manuscript.

Personally, this is one of the reasons I like to read my work at critique groups. It allows me to not only gauge the response to my work on other people, but I also get the benefit of the read. However, there are times when a critique group is not available or when you wish to listen to long passages of your manuscript. For those times, I recommend a text-to-speech program.

A Text-to-Speech program converts your typed text into speech. Most of the programs do not have natural sounding human voices, but there is some inflection built in to many of the programs. While they would not serve to convert your website into a quality podcast, for simple readings they are acceptable.

I am reviewing a couple of programs that I have tried and use here in my home office. None of the program companies have asked for my review or are connected to me in anyway other than I being a consumer of their product.

Dragon Naturally Speaking
Ranges from $99 to $199

I gained my copy of Dragon from my husband, who has used this program for years to transcribe his dictation for work. If you suffer from carpel tunnel and need a program to transcribe your writing, this would be my number one choice. It also works well as a text-to-speech reader, although the voice is not the most natural. One tip with working with Dragon is to purchase a better quality microphone. I bought my husband a podcast quality microphone to use at the office and he reported that the dictation quality greatly improved.

Natural Reader
Free with paid upgrades

This is the text-to-speech reader that has been taking my critique groups by storm. I’ve had this program recommended to me by many people. When I tried it myself, I found it comfortable to use and the voices have enough variety to be fun. For instance, I had my steampunk novel read in a British accent.

The voices have a slight electronic quality, but the inflection is natural and the choice of accents is useful. You can have American, British accents, or have your text read to you in other languages. I am not sure how accurate the translations are since I do not use the program for this use. Of all the programs I am reviewing in this article, I feel the voices in Natural Reader are the best.

If you decide to upgrade to a paid version, features such as better voices, converting your text to an audio file and being able to transfer your recorded readings to alternate devices such as an iphone, ipad or android device become possible. This makes your editing sessions easier to take with you on the go. It might be possible to convert blog posts or your text into podcasts for soundcloud or itunes. It is not as good as hiring a voice actor, but if you are self conscience about reading your work for recording, this might be a good alternative.

Word Talk

This text-to-speech program is somewhat more limited than others because it interfaces only with Microsoft Word, but it is compatible with Word 97 through Word 2013. If you write in Word and want a program that is customized to that platform, this might be a good choice for you to try. The program creates a button in your word toolbar and highlights the text as it is read. You can also record the speech as a .wav or .mp3 for use in your portable music player.

Read the Words
Free with paid upgrades

This is an online TTS program that can generate a clear audio file from almost any sort of typed material. You cut and paste your file into the online text box or upload a Word, PDF, Text or HTML document. Evidently, you can also enter a web address or RSS feed and the program will read that as well. I confess that I have not used it in that capacity, but it sounds interesting. The resulting recordings that the program makes can then be downloaded to your computer or portable music player. You could even embed the file into a website.

Again, the voices in this are good, but not human. You can tell the difference. While I would not use this for a podcast of my work, as an editing aid it is perfectly acceptable.


Powertalk is not a simple reader as most of the above programs are, it is an integrated text-to-speech application that coordinates with MS powerpoint or any presentation. You download and install PowerTalk and then run it with your presentation. It reads all the text in your powerpoint presentation include any hidden text you have inserted into the slides.

The voices are the standard ones provided with Windows 7, Vista and XP. As authors we often do presentations at various clubs or speaking engagements and I love this program to go with my powerpoint. Of the programs to use for editing, I would call this one the least useful, but for presentations it is definitely one to check out.

Author Interview – Robin Lythgoe

Robin Lythgoe is an author of fantasies, forging enchanted and inspired fiction. It is my pleasure to introduce her to you here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Robin LythgoeHello! I’m Robin Lythgoe, and I’m an author. It’s incurable, but I will suffer through it as best I can. So far, so good! I write fantasy books and stories, I make maps and dabble in Photoshop, I collect and read books, I consume copious amounts of chocolate. Dark. (Because milk chocolate is a color, not a flavor!)

When and why did you begin writing?

I think my love of writing goes hand in hand with my love of reading. I grew up in a family of dedicated readers (seven of us!). Not only did they read to me, but they instilled a tremendous love of reading. I was “writing” before I could master the alphabet, with my oldest sister playing the part of a scribe. In elementary school I wrote one particular story that my teacher liked so much that she had me read it in front of the class. I was nervous. The kids loved it. Then she sent me to another, older class. The response was so positive that it lifted me right up into the dream of wanting to be an author when I grew up. It didn’t seem entirely practical, and for a while other work took up my time, and then my children came along and distracted me further. I do have a picture, though, of me sitting at an old Apple IIe with a squalling baby in my lap as I try to write. Now I have no more excuses!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

MMmm, that’d be around age 4. After that I wrote short stories, poetry, and the beginnings of several novels. The real sense of accomplishment came when I actually finished one of them — and then there was no going back.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

As the Crow Flies, is the fast-paced story of a sarcastic, untrusting (and untrustworthy) thief blackmailed into fetching an impossible bauble for an even less trustworthy wizard. He is tasked with finding a dragon’s egg in a world where dragons are rare as hen’s teeth. What’s at stake? His true love. And who does he get paired with? The thief-taker who’s been dogging his trail for years. The two men, at completely opposite ends of the law, must learn to work together or lose everything. And if they do succeed, it could mean the end of the world as they know it.

I’m also working on an epic fantasy series featuring a character near and dear to my heart. It’s in a much more serious vein but, once again, dragons feature.

What inspired you to write this book?

I have to say that I always have scenes and characters and ideas bubbling around in my head. Some of them end up in a note file, but one particular scene grabbed me (the opening scene), and it didn’t let me go until Crow got his adventure.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I hope so! I am told that I have a very strong voice, which is a great compliment! I’ve read a really wide variety of books from fantasy to westerns, thrillers, romance, historical fiction, adventure, encyclopedias (really) — and did I mention fantasy? All of that has had an impression on me, and it has given me a broad base to draw from.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

It was not easy at all. I had a great title, but then the book didn’t quite fit it, so I changed it. Twice. Still didn’t like what I had, so I wrote down everything I could think of and everything I could scrounge up from the internet about crows or birds or journeys. As the Crow Flies fit the story to perfection, but… there are several other books by that name. Some authors and friends suggested a few others, but they didn’t “fit” and didn’t focus on Crow the way I wanted the title to do. So I guess what? I went back to As the Crow Flies.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

First, I hope the readers will be entertained. There is so much “grim” going on in the world (in reality and in fiction), that I wanted to write a story that was light, quick, and humorous. If there *is* a message (I’m not saying there is!), I hope people will think about how the people around us are important. You never can tell where you will find a friend and what that person will add to your life.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Yes — and no. I don’t think authors can help but incorporate what they see in “real life,” but I don’t know any people like those featured in Crow’s story. And I have yet to run into any power-hungry wizards, thankfully…!

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Tolkien, Lewis, and Brooks definitely impacted my opinion about the genre. It’s a rare fantasy author who has not read them. I love CJ Cherryh’s fantasy books. She writes with such a unique and poetic style. But I’d have to say that the two authors that have had the most effect on me are Tad Williams with his Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, and Terry Goodkind with the Sword of Truth books. Their style and prose are so comfortable to me that I can slide right into their books and forget to come out again. I love the settings, the quests, the absolutely believable characters, the struggles with morality, the sheer “epicness.” I’ve recently added Robin Hobb to my list of favorite authors. Someone told me I wrote like her. At the time I couldn’t remember reading anything she’d written, so I borrowed Assassin’s Apprentice. I liked it. I bought it. I blew through the next two books in the series and then sat there crying like a crazy woman at the end. I want to write like that, and maybe some of my more serious works are somewhat similar. I can happily live with the comparison.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I actually designed the cover of my book—and the bookmarks to go with it. I was at one of Brandon Sanderson’s book-signings and gave him one. He said he was impressed with the artworkd (or he was really good at exaggerating).

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read a lot! It’s good for you whether you write or not. Good for the brain, for the vocabulary, for experiences beyond your everyday life, for stimulating your imagination and creativity. Oh, the places the reader can go… And something else? Don’t be too quick to give up. I really like the famous quote by Richard Bach: “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” He would know; his best-selling Jonathan Livingston Seagull was rejected 18 times before being published. I admire that kind of stick-to-itiveness. On a bad day it makes me wonder what I’m complaining about.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

First and most important, thank you so much for reading my book! I do love to get feedback, so reviews are much appreciated (and I read every one). I’d love to hear from you, and I’m pretty easy to find. Come talk to me!

As The Crow Flies Book CoverRobin Lythgoe


As the Crow Flies


No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

writers-linksHere it is, Monday once again! It is time for another round of writer’s links here at No Wasted Ink. I have a real grab bag of articles for you to enjoy this week, even a youtube video about being creative. It is not about writing per se, but can certainly apply to authors too.

Writing a novel: 8 writing tips from Ursula K. Le Guin

Writing About Writing: The Process Journal

Art of Fantasy 33: The Steampunk Edition

YOUTUBE: Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential in All of Us

Writers Police Academy: Things That BOOM

Stephen Baxter interview: why science fiction is like therapy

Automation in the Newsroom

Making Maps for Books: Two Cartographers Tell Us How It’s Done

Thick Skin: The Key to a Writer’s Survival

The Art of Making It: Rekindling Your Motivation

Author Interviews * Book Reviews * Essays * Writer's Links * Scifaiku

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