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2001: A Space Odyssey

Summary Part Two (Chapters 7–14)
Summary Part Two (Chapters 7–14)

Deep Space Monitor seventy-nine, 100 million miles from Earth, detected and sent to earth a panoply of information about the solar system. It had now recorded an unnatural disturbance that would be communicated back to Earth. When the Radiation Forecaster back on Earth saw this disturbance, he examined it more closely and discovered an energy pattern, racing away from the moon, headed out toward the far reaches of the Universe.

Analysis

In these chapters, we are introduced to many of the technologies of the book. Details of the food and drink in space, as well as the specially designed bathroom are presented. When we get to Clavius Base, Clarke is sure to describe the intricate details of the technological amenities he imagines necessary to sustain life in space. Perhaps most notable among the technologies in this section is the Newspad. This is the machine that Floyd uses to read news from the different electronic newspapers. It is amazing how much this technology resembles the technologies of the Internet and hand-held computers or personal digital assistants. It is quite remarkable that Clarke would have dreamed this up way back in the 1960s.

Even more remarkable than his imagination of the Newspad, however, is the following description Clarke offers of the world Floyd inhabits: "even if one read only the English versions (of the newspapers), one could spend an entire lifetime doing nothing but absorbing the ever changing flow of information from the news satellites." In the 1960s, the American economy was still very much focused on industrial production. The "information age" that began in the 1990s was still decades away. In this passage, Clarke anticipates the glut of information that has come to be a reality in the actual world in 2001.

As Floyd nears the moon, the narrator describes how the moon grows beneath him, eventually filling his entire field of vision. The Earth is described as "a moon to the moon," lighting parts of the moon with light reflected form the sun. These descriptions invert the order of things as we are used to it. The Moon is presented as being like the Earth, and the Earth as like the Moon. This is only one instance of the many facets of space-travel that are so radically new. This description, as well as many others throughout the book, helps the reader to expand his horizons and see the world from an entirely different perspective. This is key in a novel like this, which, in order to achieve its full effect, requires the reader's ability to push his imagination to its limits.

As Floyd is beginning to examine the slab, he is stopped so that someone can photograph him. He finds this a bit odd, but is happy to have the pictures. This scene conveys the increasing tendency of man to record everything as it happens, to focus as much on the recording of events as on the events themselves.