Stuff I Like: "2001: A Space Odyssey" by Arthur C. Clarke

I have a confession to make. Though I realize it may seem strange coming from a librarian, I've always been reluctant to recommend favorite books/movies/music/etc. to others. My taste in such things has always been a little odd (or, at least, different enough from that of friends to seem a little odd), and just because I like something, it doesn't mean that everyone else should like it too. So I tend to keep my likes and dislikes in all things media to myself. (For much the same reason, I'm not a big fan of reviews - I don't really like other folks telling me what I should like.) But lately I've been rethinking my position on this a little. I keep running across (or rediscovering) a lot of stuff that I really like, and I want to share. So, I'm going to.

I still don't consider these recommendations, or reviews, it's just... Stuff I Like (along with a little bit about why). If it turns out to be stuff you like, that's great. If it spurs you to tell me about related stuff you like, that's also great (despite what I said about not liking reviews, I'm always curious to hear about what other people like). If the Stuff I Like turns out to be the Stuff You Hate, that's okay too (though I'm not really interested in arguing the point with you).

And one more quick disclaimer before I get on with the first instance of Stuff I Like. I am a geek. I have degrees in Physics and Computer Science. I'm a fan of science fiction and fantasy literature, television, and film (and what the heck - radio, too). I play video games and spend a lot of time hanging out on the internet. I have... slightly unusual... taste in music. All these things will become evident as I talk about the Stuff I Like, and if this sort of thing isn't to your taste, well, don't say I didn't warn you.


Arthur C. Clarke died last week, so it's oddly appropriate that I start with "2001: A Space Odyssey." This was about the first piece of adult fiction I think I ever read, and although I was already a sci fi fan, it was also my first real introduction to science fiction literature. And it completely blew me away. I think it was about the most amazing thing I'd ever read at the time ((And I want to make it clear that I'm talking about the book here. I love the book. The book is awesome. But dear god, I hate the movie. I do not dispute for one moment that Stanley Kubrick was a genius and was incredibly influential, but I can't stand his style of storytelling.)) .The story contained so many elements I loved: mystery, suspense, an epic scope, a sense of wonder. It has one of the most haunting last lines I've ever read ((Which I can still quote from memory: "For though he was the master of the world, he was not quite sure what to do next. But he would think of something.")) .

And, of course, there's HAL.

Through many years of computer geekery, I have learned, inanimate objects though they may be, computers, like cars, seem to develop personalities of their own. And of all the robots and computers and cyborgs and artificial intelligences I've run across in science fiction, HAL is still the personality by which I judge all the other AIs. There was just something so vivid - both oddly endearing and downright terrifying - about Clarke's portrayal of this computer, and how in its own reasoned, thoughtful, methodical way, it goes completely 'round the twist.

Here's the odd thing, though. I'm not a big fan of Clarke's work in general. "2010" bored me to tears ((But I loved the movie - it was everything I wish "2001" (the film) would have been. Go figure. )) and I don't think I even made it past chapter 2 of "2061". "Hammer of God" was good (but I'm extremely fond of disaster stories, so I was predisposed to liking it), and the "Rama" series was okay (but it seemed to me like a pale imitation of "2001"). ((I have yet to read "Childhood's End" - Clarke's other really, really well-known novel.)) But I'm okay with that. It was enough that I liked "2001".