I recently read Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. Since I liked it so much, I then picked up Rama II which was co-authored by Clarke and Gentry Lee. After reading 40 pages of Rama II, I put it down in disgust and refuse to read any more in the Rama series. Here is an excerpt from Rama II:
“I have had men tell me before that I resemble a cat. But never a tiger.” Francesca sat down in the chair beside the general’s desk. She meowed with a mischievous smile. “I’m just a harmless tabby housecat.”
What is this trash? It is very amusing to compare the two books. Rendezvous with Rama won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. Rama II won nothing. Here is what the New York Times said about Rendezvous with Rama: “MR. CLARKE IS SPLENDID… WE EXPERIENCE THAT CHILLING TOUCH OF THE ALIEN, THE NOT-QUITE-KNOWABLE, THAT DISTINGUISHES SF AT ITS MOST TECHNICALLY IMAGINATIVE.” And here is what the New York Times said about Rama II: “OFFERS ONE SURPRISE AFTER ANOTHER.”
You get the idea. Anyway, the first book is really good. I mean, the characters are empty and relatively lifeless, but at least they aren’t totally obnoxious stereotypical templates. However, one does not read Clarke for the character development, one reads him for the wonderful scifi ideas and descriptions. Rama is a huge, hollow metal cylinder that is 40 km long with a diameter of 16 km. It completes a full rotation every four minutes. And in the year 2130 it enters our solar system. The story is about what a crew of explorers find when they enter this mysterious spacecraft.
The book is loaded with really cool concepts and alien imagery. Clarke does a good job of describing a sense of scale for the enormous Rama. If you like scifi, then Rendezvous with Rama is definitely a book you need to read. But under no circumstances should you read Rama II.