Dr. Flint sat in the front row at the briefing. As Dr. Walker walked up to the rostrum the lights faded out and a photograph of a tall black slab flashed onto the screen.
‘What you are now looking at is evidence of a phenomenon that has set new standards for science-fiction in the twentieth-century.’
Flint realised the image was of a book stood on its end. The book was 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) by Arthur C. Clarke.
‘Low level surveys of science-fiction fans revealed an intense concentration of fandom focused on this book. Also known in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film version. But I will stake my reputation on this. The book is at least as good as the film. You all know the story, I’m sure. A rectangular block of black material is discovered on the moon. The astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole are sent out to Saturn, in order to investigate the potential target of a signal emitted from this mysterious artefact. However, things take a turn for the worse when Hal, the supercomputer that runs their ship, turns on its human occupants.’
Walker paused and another image appeared on the screen.
‘You are all familiar, I’m sure, with the end of Kubrick’s film. The end of the novel is every bit as audacious, but not as baffling. And, what’s more, the claustrophobia and vulnerability of David and Frank, stranded millions of miles from earth with a hostile supercomputer come across strongly in the novel, and Clarke uses this to crank up the suspense. The book is exciting for another reason though.’
The room became suddenly hushed and expectant.
‘Clarke’s own interest in the mysteries of space are evident. Even fifty years after it was written, the factual detail in the book awakens in the reader a sense of wonderment at what lies outside our terrestrial home.’