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I disagreed with Patrick Rothfuss

So I follow Patrick Rothfuss' blog because, well he is a bearded writer and his books are good and he has interestingn things to say. He blogged about his experience with Rendevous with Rama and its sequel, which were a giant mixed bag for him apparently.

Here is his blog and his Goodreads review

Writers are an odd bunch, we really are. We love to "hear" ourselves talk (mea culpa) and a lot of it can be good stuff. Some of it though is hot air (again mea culpa) and I feel like this blog post in particular was that, though hot air caused by an allergic reaction to writing of a time and place that Mr. Rothfuss may not appreciate, which is his right of course.

So here is my response to his review, which you can find on your own but I offer to you here to save you the trouble.

I never felt cheated by Clarke (in any of his works) and definitely not by Rendezvous with Rama. The journey is absolutely the destination with this book that was never meant to have a sequel. Or at least that is what we are told in retrospect. Rama comes and goes, the proverbial summer intimacy before leaves fall and our mystery lover boards a ship for Europe, never to be seen again. One might also consider it a Schlieffen Plan unaltered by Von Moltke the younger, which is able to bag the French army with its flanking maneuver on the right. The experience is tantalizing either in its limited reality or in the limitless possibilities.

The point being this: the book is meant to be a moment in time for a people (humans) who live in a vast universe but still think of themselves as the center of it. Something special comes and goes, leaving us more questions than answers, but compelling us to seek out those answers and answer the questions. We will never really find out in our own lifetimes what Rama is all about but we can prepare the future human race for that audacious task.

It is a valid and I think lost art to be able to tell a novel length idea in something under 300 pages, but for science fiction in general, and hard sci fi in particular, it makes absolute sense. Clarke wrote at a time when the quick hits were much more common and something speculative could fit in your back pocket without the aid of Steve Jobs' electronic progeny. Ultimately though I think the real issue here is one of head scratching and a little bewilderment at how such a small book can be so damn good.

To put in vaguely sexual terms (because that seems to be the new standard) Clarke could do with a "quickie" of 240 odd pages what some authors can't seem to do in 1000, 2000, 10,000 or dare I say 14000... he satisfied his readership, which is all that matters in the end. His "hand job" wasn't half-assed or dry, but astonishingly good for being so quick. In a less vulgar metaphor, he pulled the X-Wing out of the swamp in a time frame that "Luke" couldn't quite fathom. Its like kids who don't believe you can survive without a "device" and wifi, or ironic social commentary without recourse to seminal metaphors or people who do not know what the Schlieffen plan was. It looks like magic, but it's just being a competent human being or in this case, a Grand Master author.

I have never (and likely won't) read Rama 2 because I was completely satisfied with the first book. I understand at least some of the context under which Clarke might have had Lee write the second book but I want to answer the questions of Rama in my own way. Though I might just read it to see if it does change my opinion of the first book. My impression is that Lee was tantalized enough by Rama and Clarke enamored enough the idea (and payday, let's be honest) to knock the dust off his own version of the story. Pure speculation on my part of course.


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