Reading this book was like reading a 300-page short story. It was a wonderful story with impressive insight into the future (I kept having to remind myself this was written in the 60's), but at the same time ideas were only lightly touched upon and plot elements came and went with very little development. Overall a quick and easy read with interesting ideas that I quite enjoyed. I look forward to reading the sequels.
Id read this book before, but not since I was a kid, so I didnt remember it all that clearly. This anniversary edition of it also included an introduction by Clarke that was rather interesting, talking about the writing of the book and the making of the movie. However, Clarke mentioned in this introduction that he drew idea for the book from no fewer than four previously existing short stories of his and, reading the story with that in mind, perhaps I was predisposed to consider problems of cohesiveness but I really didnt feel, this time around, that the different parts of the story meshed well enough the ideas and themes are quite different. First, is a story of an alien artifact which gives a boost to our primitive ancestors, enabling our evolutionary development. (possibly my favorite part of the book, and interesting in the moral ambiguity that progress is intertwined with the potential for violence.) Second, we have a very realistic look at what might happen, politically, in a near-future scenario when humanity is faced with the potentially significant discovery of an alien artifact. The third part (with HAL) is focused on individual human psychology and the potential for problems inherent in mans use of his own technology. Finally, the end of the book is an unusual and interesting first contact story (although, in my opinion, one that suffers from a both overblown and indeterminate ending.)
Sure, all of these issues reflect on each other and interconnect to some degree, creating a big-picture view of intelligence, evolution, and our possible place in the universe mixed in with lots of (amazingly, not-too-outdated) speculations on space travel and our solar system. But I still found myself wishing for a more cohesive narrative