Introduced by Michael Moorcock
Illustrated by Joe Wilson
Every bit as ambitious and prophetic as the film that shared its inception, Arthur C. Clarke’s novel remains a towering science-fiction classic. This is the first illustrated edition.
Developed from Arthur C. Clarke’s short story ‘The Sentinel’ and brainstormed together with legendary film director Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey(1968) has had an indelible impact on both cinema and genre literature. Written alongside the screenplay, the book stands on its own merits as a visionary work: a powerful exploration of space, artificial intelligence and the destiny of humanity.
‘Arthur C. Clarke is one of the truly prophetic figures of the space age … the colossus of science fiction’
This edition includes the foreword written jointly by Clarke and Kubrick, as well as Clarke’s ‘Back to 2001’ preface written in 1989. Michael Moorcock, a long-standing colleague of Clarke’s and an award-winning author, has provided a new introduction revealing much of his friend’s personality, as well as casting a new light on the fractious relationship between Clarke and Kubrick. For this first illustrated edition, Joe Wilson has contributed seven colour illustrations that capture the book’s vision of 2001’s remarkable future, while the binding shimmers with holographic foil.
For all its scientific realism, 2001: A Space Odyssey is also an exciting and entertaining read. Particularly in comparison to the film, it rattles along at a thrilling pace; Clarke moves us swiftly from the appearance of the first monolith on prehistoric earth – which so startles and unnerves the man-apes who are the ancestors of the human race – to a chilling episode on board the Discovery, when a mission to Saturn is jeopardised by the increasing mental instability of the ship’s computer, HAL 9000. The final section of the book, in which the isolated David Bowman explores a ‘Grand Central Station of the Galaxy’, is a frightening, extraordinary and undoubtedly joyful trip to the very limits of human experience.
'And twice there passed slowly across the sky, rising up the zenith and descending into the east, a dazzling point of light more brilliant than any star'
Clarke was a dedicated proponent of space exploration and the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society. His enthusiasm for the subject is evident in his detailed descriptions of space travel – even at the time of writing, such feats would have seemed quite extraordinary, yet Clarke writes with an optimism that makes that future feel inevitable. Indeed, 2001 is full of prescient details: in 1979 the Voyager mission used Jupiter’s gravitational field to ‘boost’ its journey to the outer solar system, in much the same way the fictional Discovery uses gravitational assist to reach the distant moons of Saturn; and the ‘Newspads’ in use by Clarke’s moon colonists will seem very familiar to 21st-century readers.
There are several published accounts of how 2001 came into being. I understood from Arthur that he was somewhat frustrated by Kubrick’s erratic schedule. This meant that the novel, which they were supposed to write before the film’s appearance, would come out after the initial release date. But in the main he seemed generally happy with the collaboration, even up to the time that rough cuts were being shown. He was, I know, afraid that Kubrick’s inability to settle down and collaborate on the novel might mean that the book, coming out after 2001’s release, would look like a novelisation of the film rather than an original work.
Based primarily on his short story ‘The Sentinel’, together with other published fact and fiction, the film was very much a joint effort, although Arthur was overly modest about his contribution. For his part, Kubrick seemed unable to come up with an ending that suited him.
When I visited the set, the film was already about two years behind schedule and well over budget. I saw several alternative finale scenes constructed, which were later abandoned. In one version the monolith turned out to be some kind of alien spaceship. I also knew something that I don’t think Arthur ever did. Kubrick was at some point dissatisfied with the collaboration, approaching other writers (including J. G. Ballard and myself) to work on the movie. He knew neither Ballard nor me personally. We refused for several reasons. I felt it would be disloyal to accept.
I guessed the problem was a difference in personality. Arthur was a scientific educator and belonged to a school of SF writers that needed to cross every t and dot every i. Explanations were his forte. He was uncomfortable with most forms of ambiguity. Kubrick was an intuitive director inclined to leave the interpretations to the audience. These differences were barely acknowledged. Neither did Kubrick tell Arthur of his concerns regarding the final version. Where, thanks to Arthur, the film was heavy with voice-over explication and clarifications of scenes, Kubrick wanted the story to be told almost entirely in visual terms. Without consulting or confronting his co-creator, during the final edit he cut a huge amount of Arthur’s voice-over explanation. This decision probably contributed significantly to the film’s success but Arthur was unprepared for it. When he addressed MGM executives at a dinner given in his honour before the premiere, Arthur spoke warmly of Kubrick, telling his audience that there had been no serious disagreements between them in all the years they had worked together, though declaring he had yet to see the final cut. My own guess at the time was that Kubrick wasn’t at ease with any proposed resolution but had nothing better to offer in place of his co-writer’s ‘Star Child’ ending. We know now that the long final sequence, offered without explanation, was probably what helped turn the film into the success it became, but the rather unresponsive expressions on the faces of the MGM executives whom Arthur had addressed in his speech showed that they were by no means convinced they had a winner.
Arthur C. Clarke was born in 1917 in Minehead, Somerset. Volunteering for RAF service in 1941, Clarke worked on radar systems during the Second World War, and published an influential paper in 1945 which sketched the potential for orbital communication satellites. His passionate interest in science was allied with an early facility for fiction writing, and he went on to write more than seventy books, including Childhood’s End (1967), Rama II (1989), The Ghost from the Grand Banks (1991) and The Garden of Rama (1991). He became the world’s foremost science-fiction writer and won numerous international awards including the Hugo and Nebula. In 1968 he shared an Academy Award nomination for his collaboration with Stanley Kubrick on the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. He was awarded a knighthood in 1998 and died in 2008 in his adopted home of Sri Lanka.
Michael Moorcock is one of the most important figures in British SF and Fantasy literature. His novels have won, and been shortlisted for, numerous awards including the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Whitbread and Guardian Fiction Prize. In 1999, he was given the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award; in 2001, he was inducted into the SF Hall of Fame; and in 2007, he was named a SFWA Grandmaster. His tenure as editor of New Worlds magazine in the sixties and seventies is seen as the high watermark of SF editorship in the UK, and was crucial in the development of the SF New Wave. Although born in London, he now splits his time between homes in Texas and Paris.
Joe Wilson is an illustrator based in the UK and trained at Leeds Metropolitan University. Known for his focus on detail and drawing, alongside a preference for muted colour palettes, he specialises in hand-drawn illustrations and print. Working with a combination of pencil, ink and digital colour, he has developed a style reminiscent of woodcut printing, etching and screen printing.
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Review by SeanPickett on 8th Apr 2016
"I suggested Folio publish 2001 a number of years ago and I was excited to see it in the March 2016 Collection. I never considered how hard it would be to illustrate the book since the film has imprint..." [read more]