Rendezvous with Rama, chapters 33-35

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

At the beginning of chapter 33, Norton has instituted rules for monitoring the inside of Rama for any signs of the creatures. Nonetheless, as they are watching, a tripod-like creature with a round head and three eyes appears. (I don’t know how often I have mentioned it previously, but there is a continuous repetition within Rama of things in 3s.)

These spider-like creatures are then observed all over the place, examining the humans objects but leaving the humans themselves alone. One of the creatures falls while trying to ascend to the hub and is broken/killed and Laura, who has wanted to capture and examine one, takes it onto the ship to dissect. The chapter ends with an unarticulated surprising discovery.

An interesting element of this chapter is the eagerness on Laura’s part to capture and examine one of the creatures. There is an acknowledgement that, if the roles were reversed and there were aliens on Earth trying to capture, this is potentially problematic, although the identified problem is more about triggering war, rather than personal autonomy or rights.

Also, and this is a slight thing, but it is very questionable judgement for Laura to take the creature onto their ship to dissect it.

Chapter 34 switches back to the perspective of the Rama Committee, who are considering the change in rate of spin and attitude that coincided with the energy discharge from the horns and the implications that has for Rama’s future behaviour.

I like how Clarke uses the committee as a way of conveying information that would be unknown or difficult to observe for the humans on Rama. It keeps the story moving, without resorting to characters (Norton or one of the other crew) talking about what they’ve been told.

The committee also discusses the results of Laura’s dissection, which appears to indicate that the creatures are very specialized biological robots. They have what are essentially batteries to power them, but are largely organic.

Chapter 35 is very brief. A message for Norton’s eyes only is received on the ship. He, of course, is inside Rama and has his executive office, Kirchoff, open and read it (against protocol). Kirchoff doesn’t want to convey the important-but-not-urgent content over the radio, so leaves the ship under Laura’s command (also against protocol) to take the message into Rama for Norton. The contents of the message are, of course, not mentioned.

Clarke does love his cliffhangers, but, as I have previously talked about, like with Dan Brown, they do serve, along with the short length of the chapters, to keep you hooked. While I have no wish to be the next Dan Brown, I appreciate the technique and think it is something I need to work on.


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