I didn’t enjoy Rendezvous With Rama (1973) as much as his previous book, The City And The Stars (1956), a book that is comparable in that it is also an exploration of a curious landscape filled with strange things.
The tone here is more cerebral, and the prose is plain to the point of being pedestrian. Characterisation is also a minor concern. All of this dampens the impact of the novel’s exploratory passages and action sequences. At one illustrative juncture, a minor character undertakes a perilous journey to the Southern continent, where he becomes stranded. Here, many authors would have killed ‘Jimmy’ in order to raise the level emotional temperature of the novel, and introduce more suspense around the fates of the rest of the crew. I suspect Brian Aldiss would have done so. Instead, Clarke resolves the episode in what is an anticlimax, and so an auxiliary character of whom we feel little empathy for is saved for no apparent purpose.
There are several such instances where problems are presented and overcome in a cool, even-handed and methodical way. In doing so, Clarke succeeds in depicting how scientists really would behave if they encountered an extraterrestrial object in space. If this appeals to you, Rendezvous With Rama will be thoroughly enjoyable. However, those seeking something more visceral and filled with suspense would be better off elsewhere.