Book info

The Garden Of Rama (1993)

The Garden of Rama (1993)
Rating
3.74 of 5 Votes: 5
ISBN
1857230213 (ISBN13: 9781857230215)
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English
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orbit
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The Garden Of Rama (1993)
The Garden Of Rama (1993)

About book: There's a scene towards the end of the sixth Harry Potter book where Harry and Dumbledore find a small basin of water with a much-needed magical item at the bottom of it. The water is cursed, though, and they can't simply reach in and grab the item, nor scoop out the water; the water has to be drunk in its totality before the item can be attained. And you just know that water's going to taste bad. Think the purified essence of a thousand Domino's pizzas and then multiply that by three. Yes, that bad. Anyway, Dumbledore realises what has to be done and makes Harry promise to keep feeding him the water, glass by painful glass, and not to stop no matter what happens. Well sure enough it gets unpleasant, immediately they start Dumbledore starts begging Harry to stop, weeping and ranting; Harry meanwhile pleads, cajoles, and lies to his headmaster in order to get him to drink one more glass, one more glass, one more glass. Reading The Garden of Rama is pretty much like that: I'd promised myself I was going to finish the Rama series and so had to get through this book, and so I persevered through it all, shovelling page after page of toxic drivel down my throat no matter how bad it got.I'm afraid this review isn't going to have much structure or narrative flow. There were too many things wrong with the book to make this anything more than a long list of free flowing criticisms. Besides, the book didn't bother having any structure or narrative flow so feel free to pretend that my review itself is some kind of meta-criticism if you like.Where to start? Well, the title makes no sense for one. In Rendezvous with Rama the main characters rendezvoused with a spacecraft dubbed Rama. In Rama II an identical looking spacecraft, dubbed Rama II, came to the solar system to be investigated. And in Rama Revealed I assume the secrets of the whole Rama thing will be, well, revealed (although see below). So then, this book must be about some great big vegetable patch in the spacecraft, right? Alas not. A settlement built within the ship is christened New Eden, and they have plants and stuff there, but that's pretty much the only relation to any garden in the book. Maybe this first criticism is overly pedantic, but it seems the choice of title here was either overly mundane or meaningless.Next on my gripe list is the acknowledgements section (yes, we haven't made it to page one yet). Gentry Lee thanks his wife for "conversations about the nature of the female" since the book is primarily told from Nicole Wakefield's perspective. Indeed the first part of the book is told as excerpts from her journal. So does Gentry Lee manage to transcend sex differences in this journal section? Do his wife's suggestions seamlessly meld into a convincing catalogue of thoughts from a woman trapped in an alien environment and getting pregnant left, right, and centre? No. No, no, and no. Instead we get utterly bog-standard first person prose, except every ten pages or so there will be a cringe inducing paragraph along the lines of "So my husband didn't put the toilet seat down today. What is it with men and not doing that? Huh? As a woman it really gets my goat. You know what I'm talking about ladies, oh yes." I've no doubt Mrs Lee gave her husband numerous insights into "the nature of the female" but he hasn't used them to make a believable character, he's just shoehorned a few of these bad stand-up routines into the main text.And while we're talking about the believability of our esteemed protagonist Nicole, let me ask you a question, dear reader. If you had to start the human civilisation again from scratch, how many people do you think you'd need to ensure enough genetic diversity to make the new civilisation tenable? I seem to recall a figure mentioned in The Matrix Reloaded for the number of humans needed to rebuild Zion is twenty three. Stephen Baxter makes this a big plot point at the end of Ark and agonises that forty six people with maximal genetic variation might just be okay. A quick straw poll amongst my friends with backgrounds in the biological sciences reckoned that quite a bit more than that would be needed. There's evidence that the human population fell to less than 15 000 once, and that maybe 500-1000 humans could breed their way away from extinction. So, with all that in mind, how many people does Dr Nicole des Jardins Wakefield, hero of Garden of Rama, think are necessary to breed their way out of trouble? Fifteen thousand, like the actual human population after the Toba eruption? Maybe one thousand, which some research suggests is a safe minimum? Perhaps only one hundred and sixty as determined by American anthropologist John Moore? Or only one hundred, as suggested by my biology friends after three glasses of wine and two minutes to think about the problem? Maybe Baxter was right with forty six, or the Wachowski brothers with twenty three? Well, Dr Nicole, what's your answer? (view spoiler)[Two. (hide spoiler)]

Arthur C. Clarke's body of work exhibits an arc of development from starry-eyed optimism regarding the human condition to pessimistic skepticism. "The Garden of Rama" was seemingly written just beyond the cusp. This is a novel that's all over the map, but this is not meant by means of criticism. Indeed, based on the first half of this novel, there would be little or no way of predicting the twists and turns which lead to its conclusion. Generally speaking, the first half focuses more on the science, the second half more on the fiction, and there is plenty of both on hand to maintain the reader's interest. Picking up right where "Rama II" left off, Clarke and co-author Gentry Lee present a worthy sequel which answer many (but hardly all) of the question raised earlier in this series, and traces the subsequent history of several of the major characters in the previous volume.True to form, several plot threads are left unresolved. A few too many, in fact, which is my primary criticism. I realize that in order to set the stage for the subsequent volume(s) in a series, the author(s) must create some degree of cliff-hanging tension, but "The Garden of Rama" takes this to an extreme which suggests just a hint of negligence. But this is a minor quibble, and it may be that the next volume in the series provides good reasons for leaving such gaping holes in this otherwise fascinating tale. At least we can give credit to Clarke and Lee for avoiding what would have been a predictable and anti-climactic ET-ex-machina ending. I look forward to the next book in this highly rewarding series.
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Reviews
JP
Like Rama #2, I went back and forth while reading this one on if I was actually enjoying it or if I would finish it at all. In the end, I did finish it and I think I'll even start the last one mostly out of a sense of completionism.Essentially, there are five sections:In the first, the three explorers from Rama II are leaving the solar system at high speeds. The parts where they are exploring the ship and learning how to live with the local 3D printer and interacting with other alien species is
Marco
I cannot say I was disappointed: I was expecting a book as bad as Rama 2, and I got it. I loved Rendezvous with Rama and I was excited to discover that there were sequels. Unfortunately the so called "sequels" were co-written by a second author, Gentry Lee, and there is nothing of the original story on those sequels.Clarke was a skillful writer and a scientist, and this did shows in the first book of the Rama series: the focus was on the science part of science fiction, and the plot was plausible and scientifically accurate, and incredibly fascinating. The first book read like an entertaining science article, were strange phenomena were explained using physics.The sequels are nothing like the original Rama book. While the first book read like a explorer journal, able to fill the reader with wonder and awe, the second and third books read like the screenplay of a cheap and trashy reality TV series. There are many aspects of the plot that make me think that Clarke had absolutely no role in the writing of this book.
Tresuiri
Similar to the previous volume, it was a decent edition to the Rama series. I am surprised that no one has wanted to make a movie about this series. This book is a continuation of the Rama II set of characters following Nicole and Richard's ride and back from across the stars. I thought the Nakamura character's death was a bit over the top, and moreover, the Octospiders response was too tepid for the threat posed. The God character was bit off balance in my opinion, but at least the main colony conflict was fleshed out before the end of this volume. Despite my complaints here, the book was a page turner for me - it kept me engaged.
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