I’m back with more about Rendezvous with Rama. I took a little break there for a palette cleanser after that last chapter (Gone Gull by Donna Andrews, 21st book in a humourous cozy mystery series. I have regularly read these since book one. Highly recommended if that sounds appealing.)
So, chapter twelve describes the very beginning of the explorations of the interior of Rama by Norton, Calvert, and Rodrigo. They reach the main ‘plain’ of Rama and are going to rest before continuing on. There is the now-typical highly detailed description of the experience and a brief diversion describing a Christian denomination (Fifth Church of Christ, Cosmonaut) that believes Jesus was a visitor from space. Again, it is clear that Clarke invested heavily in backstory and these glimpses of a fully realized world behind what he is writing adds so much to the story as a whole.
Chapter thirteen begins with the observation that Calvert has a habit of whistling movie themes (a characteristic that is fine on paper, but would undoubtedly be annoying as f*ck in person). The group begins their exploration of the plain, heading first towards a long trench (one of several) that they have identified. What had appeared to them to possibly be a layer of ice in the bottom of the trench is not, although they cannot specifically identify what it is. Although what they are discovering is mysterious and (obviously) alien, Norton is determined not to let it be overwhelming, that it is “not beyond human understanding.”
There is a certain arrogance in Norton that is partly his character and partly a larger symptom of science fiction in the early and mid-twentieth century. It is his character, and I am always wary of attributing to the author or book beliefs that are more properly attributable to a character, but I’ve read so many other books that display the same attitude. (The absolute worst for this is the Cross-Time Engineer series, which is fun in its way but there is so, so much wrong with it.)
Chapter fourteen opens with another meeting of the Rama Committee. The communication difficulties that they encounter (establishing connections between Norton et al and those back on the Moon) seem a little strange now, given that we don’t have much difficulty communicating with our robot explorers (yes, it can take time, but we’re getting images and data from the Kuiper Belt).
One of the really useful takeaways for me, as a writer, so far, is how deftly Clarke uses different approaches to convey information. The committee meetings, which include reports back from Norton, offer an alternative way of furthering the story, rather than all from the perspective of those in the ship. There is also a certain depth that comes from the behaviour of the committee members (even though some of them are more stereotypes than individuals).
The key plot point of this chapter is that, as Rama gets closer to the sun and the exterior heats up, while the interior is still cooler, there is the possibility of weather inside, particularly hurricanes, and the groups now inside could be in danger from them.
And that’s how the chapter ends.