Rendezvous with Rama

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Book cover of Rendezvous with Rama

Book description

In the year 2130, a mysterious and apparently untenanted alien spaceship, Rama, enters our solar system. The first product of an alien civilisation to be encountered by man, it reveals a world of technological marvels and an unparalleled artificial ecology.

But what is its purpose in 2131?

Who is inside…

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Why read it?

7 authors picked Rendezvous with Rama as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Although the characters are wooden and the dialogue is stilted by today’s standards, the vision of Arthur C. Clarke to imagine what an interstellar spacecraft would be like is astonishing.

His understanding of the mechanics and physics involved comes through, making the story compelling. And there are unforeseen antagonists in the form of politics and religion. This book is being developed into a screenplay for adaptation by Denis Villeneuve (who also directed Arrival and Dune).

I’d highly recommend reading the book before seeing the movie.  

Rama is a spaceship, not a space station, but it's huge and ancient, and at first appears to be abandoned. Then the human explorers realize it's just sleeping. This is a prime example of science fiction's "sense of wonder" at the strangeness of the Universe. When I read it, at about age 14, it utterly blew me away with its combination of rock-hard science and utter weirdness. It also has the best final line ever.

From James' list on exploring big things in space.

Rendezvous with Rama (and its subsequent novels) is my favorite sci-fi series. I love the idea of an alien spacecraft passing through our solar system and us being able to intercept it and potentially learn more about our universe. (If that happened in real life, I would want to be a part of that.) I actually prefer the last three books in this series because it follows several generations of a family that’s travelling through space, the difficulties that creates, the obstacles they face, and the discoveries they make both along the way and at their final destination. But the…

This 1973 hard sci-fi classic is perhaps the best fictional introduction to behavioral robotics there is, appearing a decade before researchers, most notably Rod Brooks, created the behavioral paradigm. An alien spaceship is passing through our solar system on a slingshot orbit. It is autonomous but controlled strictly by simple biological affordances that enable it to respond to the human intruders without applying any of the HAL 9000 reasoning Clarke popularized in his more famous 2001: A Space Odyssey. I mentally throw this book at engineers when they try to make unnecessarily complex robots. 

I feel that Rendezvous with Rama perfectly encapsulates the very theme of piquing your sense of wonder and curing your dystopian blues. It has a wonderful mix of mystery, awe, adventure, and even hopefulness! I can still remember the thrill I got reading about an ancient alien spaceship hurtling through our solar system. Clarke’s handling of "first contact" is so gripping and thought out that it feels almost real. 

From Dylan's list on sci-fi to pique your sense of wonder.

This one has been kicking around for decades and I’m surprised it’s never been attempted before. A mysterious mega-object zooms through our solar system. We visit it and explore its mind-blowing interior. An incredible intelligence at work. Astronauts on an adventure. Unfathomable motives and a grand scale. It’s classic Arthur C. Clarke!

There’s a classic escape thriller at play here that would need to be jacked up beyond all the science porn. The machine is destined to leave the solar system. Can our astronauts overcome disaster and escape in time? 

To make this work, you’d need to infuse some of…

Any list like this has to start with Arthur Clarke, the man who among other things invented the concept of geostationary satellites for global telecommunication. Rama is one of his later works, and it resonates today because the book predates the recent passage of the mysterious object Oumuamua through the Solar System. Rama was an uninhabited artificial world, a kind of celestial Mary Celeste, which passed by the Sun and went on its way through space but not before being boarded by astronauts from Earth who probed its mysteries. Was Oumuamua life imitating fiction? We will never know because unlike…

From John's list on science fiction by scientists.

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