Rendezvous with Rama, chapters 42-46

And this post wraps up my Rendezvous with Rama re-read. 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). I’m going to do a summary post of highlights soon, too.

Chapter 42 has Norton and other crew members re-enter Rama and ‘break in’ to one of the buildings in the area they have been referring to as London. Inside, they find large, glass floor-to-ceiling cylinders, inside of which are images/holograms of various objects. After some consideration, they decide it is most likely a catalogue of 3D templates/solid blueprints and that the Ramans build/construct things as they need them (as with the biots). There is a nice analogue in this to 3D printing.

The crew take pictures of the objects in the cylinders, amongst which they find something that appears to be armour of a sort and seems to indicate a being 2.5 metres tall with three arms (and presumably legs).

They are then called out of the building because the lights in Rama are turning off.

Chapter 43 details the quick return to their ship by Norton and the others as the interior of Rama undergoes a variety of changes. The lights are dimming slowly, Rama is slightly re-orienting itself.

Then the lights begin to run towards the Cylindrical Sea and the biots follow them, where they go over the edge to be taken apart by the ‘sharks’ in the Sea. Once the biots are all gone, the lights go back to normal, dimming more as Norton gets one last look before leaving Rama.

In Chapter 44, having left Rama, the ship moves away, still watching Rama as it continues to make manoeuvres (which are explained in great detail!). Eventually Rama begins to accelerate, but without any of how, and, instead of then slowing down in order to move into an orbit around the sun, it continues its acceleration.

Chapter 45 continues with the crew watching as Rama continues to accelerate and, reaching incredible speed as it approaches very close to the sun, gains a protective cocoon or bubble. It picks up still more speed, and appears to be gaining matter or energy from the sun before continuing onwards, eventually breaking from the ecliptic, headed perhaps to the Greater Magellanic Cloud.

The final chapter, forty-six, Chapter 46 wraps things up with Norton and Laura on the ship as they make their way back towards Earth, the Moon, and Mars. Norton has received the permission he sought for another child with his wife on Mars (this includes a brief explanation about how spacemen are sterilized and sperm warehoused because of the certainty of radiation-caused damage, nothing about women is mentioned. Norton flirts with Laura, as there are allusions to end of mission sexual encounters between crew.

And finally, Norton thinks about how he has peaked in life experience now, even though he is not that old.

The final image of the story is a very brief switch to one of the Earth-based experts previously mentioned, who suddenly wakes to the thought of how everything the Ramans do comes in threes. (duh duh)

As I said, I’m going to go through all these posts and synthesize the writing lessons I’ve noted. Overall, though, I really noticed my own tendencies in this book. I’ve read it countless times and I clearly absorbed certain things!

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.

Rendezvous with Rama, chapters 36-38

After a bit of a break, I am continuing with my Rendezvous with Rama re-read. 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).

Chapter 36 begins with the introduction of another character, Pieter Rousseau, who watches the ‘biots’ (what they have decided to call the biological robots) through a telescope at the hub. He has identified the various different types of biots and their purposes, but he is also keeping an eye on the teams exploring the Raman plain.

I like this device of Clarke’s, introducing individual characters in a brief but focused way when they are required. It keeps the story at arm’s length, but that works, because the scope of what is being told is so great.

When he introduces the use of the word ‘biot’, he says, “No one knew who invented the word ‘biot'”. I’ll have to go back, but I think Clarke used a similar phrasing previously for a ‘new’ word, although I actually appreciate Clarke’s wish to stress how new terms tend to arise spontaneously within groups.

Another crew member comes with the message for Norton which Rousseau tosses down to the plain (taking advantage of the varying gravity, etc). The message tells Norton that Mercury has launched a missile in Rama’s direction, although there has as yet been no official announcement.

As chapter thirty-seven opens, the missile is closer and Rama has been evacuated for a second time. This chapter includes a brief description of the human settlement on Mercury, which is harsh (although individuals are quite protected from the environment) and has a rather brutal social structure.

Norton receives notice that the representative from Mercury is going to address the General Assembly of the United Planets. Depending on what is said, Norton may need to quickly leave the vicinity of Rama.

Chapter 38 covers the meeting of the General Assembly. The United Planets has seven members – Mercury, Earth, Luna, Mars, Ganymede, Titan, and Triton and meetings take place on the Moon.

The Ambassador from Mercury addresses the assembly, beginning with a summary of the situation. He concludes by saying that, although they do not know if Rama has malevolent intentions, they need to assume that is possible and Mercury is ready to destroy Rama at the first sign of such malevolence.

This is really the first moment of true conflict in the book, as opposed to the preceding series of obstacles (all easily overcome). This is fascinating as there are fewer than forty pages remaining in the story (paperback edition).