Rendezvous with Rama, chapters 30-32

And my slow re-read of Rendezvous with Rama continues. You can read my previous posts here if you’d like, but beware that spoilers (to the extent that you can spoil a book that came out 46 years ago) abound.

Chapter 30 opens with Jimmy still stuck in the souther part of Rama, with no way of returning to the others (the steepness of the south shore of the Cylindrical Sea being the barrier).  As he makes his way to the shore, hoping that the others will find a way to rescue him, he makes a tour of the squares that make the Raman surface, each different and surprising. The only similar ones resemble unplanted farming fields covered in a thick plastic-like fabric. In a field covered in a dense trellis, there is a tear in the plastic and a single plant, with an unusual flower, has grown. With difficulty, Jimmy makes his way through the trellis and picks the flower. The plant then withdraws into the ground. Jimmy sees the flower as his ‘rightful due’ as Rama has ‘killed him.’

Also, this is a tiny thing, but indicative of other aspects of the book, but it is jarring to see the word ‘unmanly’ in this chapter used in an unironic way.

The story’s perspective finally returns to Norton in chapter 31. Norton himself has mentally gone through many possibilities for rescuing Jimmy and they have also received many suggestions from elsewhere. The plan they go through with is for Jimmy to jump into the water, using his shirt as a makeshift parachute to slow him down a little. Due to the height, gravity, and so forth, there is little risk, although he does spend a few minutes in the water before being rescued.

Following Jimmy’s rescue, the horns in the south end of Rama light up again, this time stronger, and there is an earthquake (Ramaquake?), followed by a tidal wave those in the boat can see form on the other side of Rama (‘above’ them).

Chapter 32 picks up immediately following the previous chapter. The quake has resulted in a slight course correction by Rama (obviously the intention). Meanwhile, the boat is trying to avoid being capsized by the wave.

The female crew member captaining the boat, the only one with boating experience, is a good, strong character (if lightly developed) and is able to maneuver them to safety. As they approach the north shore, they encounter a broken starfish-like being that, again, is indeterminately organic or robotic. Smaller beings appear and break it up into pieces to take away (as happened with Jimmy’s sky-bike). They are happy to make it to shore and Norton determines that no one will be going back out on the sea.

This is a typical series of chapters, with obstacles being constantly thrown up and promptly overcome. I think that is one of the fascinating aspects of this book, as I have mentioned before. There are definitely obstacles put in the characters’ ways, but they are overcome with little difficulty. For example, Jimmy’s sky-bike is knocked down, Jimmy walks to the impassable-looking south shore, they think of a way for him to descend, he does, there’s a tidal wave, they successfully evade it, etc. There isn’t a lot of try/fail, which I find intriguing. (Also, I do essentially the same thing as Clarke, which I usually see as a problem, but maybe not.)

And a final observation: There is so much in this book in particular (but I think in other of Clarke’s books, too) that has influenced how I write SF.


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