Rendezvous with Rama, chapters 39-41

And my Rendezvous with Rama re-read is finally approaching completion (there are only 46 chapters). 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 in the 70s).

In Chapter 39, Norton has to decide what to do with the armed missile that Mercury has sent to destroy Rama (if they determine there is a threat, the missile is there, but on stand by). Rodrigo approaches Norton with the suggestion that he is confident he can disarm the missile (and Mercury won’t know until it’s been done because of the ten minute time delay).

Norton wrestles with the decision and ultimately decides to have Rodrigo disarm the missile.

This, which really begins the climatic sequence of the book, is the first time there is a true barrier for Norton and the crew to face. Previously, the obstacles were slight and easily dealt with (often by circumstances outside of Norton’s control)

An interesting technique that arises again in this chapter is the use of references to historical Earth, presumably to give the reader something to connect to. What I find curious are the elements that Norton has full familiarity with (eg Shakespeare) versus those he does not (eg not knowing what a “buck” refers to). It doesn’t matter in the context of the story, but as a writer I’m intrigued.

The next chapter, forty, is from Rodrigo’s perspective as he makes his way to the missile to disarm it. There is a lot of detail about the technical aspects of reaching the missile and beginning to work.

There is an unintentionally amusing bit about a plate on the side of the missile with contact information for the manufacturer and it is a mailing address (on Mercury), without any other imagined contact details, which is oddly quaint (and funny coming from Clarke, who was usually quite forward thinking and imaginative).

Then, as Rodrigo works, Norton receives notice from Mercury that they will blow up Rama (unrelated to Rodrigo, as they have not seen him yet because of the time delay).

Meanwhile, the missile repositions itself to hit Rama and Rodrigo easily deduces that this is what is happening, but he works quickly, disarming the missiles, cutting the connections to the camera and radio transmissions and then setting off back to the ship.

Chapter 41 is a short, context providing chapter. Norton is dictating another letter to both of his wives, which provides the opportunity for Clarke to share the information that 1) they are getting quite close to the sun and only have 48 hours before the ship needs to leave Rama and 2) the crew is going back into Rama one last time.

And that’s that. More soon.

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