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Rama #1

Rendezvous with Rama

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At first, only a few things are known about the celestial object that astronomers dub Rama. It is huge, weighing more than ten trillion tons. And it is hurtling through the solar system at an inconceivable speed. Then a space probe confirms the unthinkable: Rama is no natural object. It is, incredibly, an interstellar spacecraft. Space explorers and planet-bound scientists alike prepare for mankind's first encounter with alien intelligence. It will kindle their wildest dreams... and fan their darkest fears. For no one knows who the Ramans are or why they have come. And now the moment of rendezvous awaits — just behind a Raman airlock door.

243 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 1973

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About the author

Arthur C. Clarke

1,359 books10.1k followers
Sir Arthur Charles Clarke was one of the most important and influential figures in 20th century science fiction. He spent the first half of his life in England, where he served in World War Two as a radar operator, before emigrating to Ceylon in 1956. He is best known for the novel and movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he co-created with the assistance of Stanley Kubrick.

Clarke was a graduate of King's College, London where he obtained First Class Honours in Physics and Mathematics. He is past Chairman of the British Interplanetary Society, a member of the Academy of Astronautics, the Royal Astronomical Society, and many other scientific organizations.

Author of over fifty books, his numerous awards include the 1961 Kalinga Prize, the AAAS-Westinghouse science writing prize, the Bradford Washburn Award, and the John W. Campbell Award for his novel Rendezvous With Rama. Clarke also won the Nebula Award of the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1972, 1974 and 1979, the Hugo Award of the World Science Fiction Convention in 1974 and 1980, and in 1986 became Grand Master of the Science Fiction Writers of America. He was awarded the CBE in 1989.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,461 reviews
Profile Image for Patrick.
Author 65 books233k followers
January 24, 2016
It's odd to think that this book was published 40 years ago. I don't know why that strikes me as strange, but it does....

It's tempting for me to call this book "Traditional Science Fiction." Or "Classic Science Fiction" or something along those lines. But what I really mean to say is that this is a story where the science is one of the central aspects of the story.

The basic premise of the story is: In the future, humanity finds a alien spacecraft and investigates it.

A lot of the joy of exploration comes from the theory of how a spaceship might really work in terms of physics. How could you generate gravity on a spaceship? How would it travel? What would the aliens be like? What would the purpose of these various pieces of the ships be? (Such as, for example, a large body of water, or featureless buildings on an island?

It's an interesting story, but probably *mostly* interesting for people interested in the genuine science of interstellar/interplanetary travel.

For example, if you enjoyed The Martian, you have a good chance of liking this book. (But be warned, the pacing is much different than The Martian. It's not First Person. It's not conversational. It's not painfully technical, but it was written in a different age.

Of particular interest to me was the fact that many of the smaller plot arcs of the books were very short. By which I mean to say that when a problem arises in the story, the resolution comes very soon afterwards. That limits the tension of the story somewhat, as you don't have time to get too worried over anything before it's fixed.

Lastly, it's important to note that this book ends with many questions unanswered. But the good news is that there are two more books in the series that will explore those questions further, and I trust Clarke to pay me off with good answers by the end of the series.


Later edit: I read the sequel, and I have to retract my previous statement. The follow-up book severely damaged my opinion of this book to the point where I don't know if I would reccomend it any more.

So if you were considering reading this book based on my review, you might want to read this first in order to get the whole story...

Profile Image for Nataliya.
784 reviews12.5k followers
March 13, 2021
“But at least we have answered one ancient question. We are not alone. The stars will never again be the same to us.”
I always find it interesting to see whether science fiction classics end up standing up to the test of time, given ever-changing technology, paradigms and culture. Some of them still shine, while others become hopelessly dated and irrelevant.

Well, to me Rama, published in 1973, withstood the test of time, regardless of rare instances of eyebrow-raising.

It is a classic SF novel of first contact - but done a bit differently, and full of the sense of wonder and the beauty of exploration of something amazingly strange and ultimately unknowable, the feeling of awe at mysteries that may be greater than we can imagine. All of it is done in such a short book - just slightly over 200 pages - and it uses each one of them just right (well, maybe minus that ‘bouncy breasts in low gravity’ paragraph).

The first contact here is not really with aliens — but rather with their amazing creation. A crew of a spaceship spends several weeks exploring the apparently dead and deserted colossal alien starship, basically a miniature world with cities and the Cylindrical Sea, built like an O’Neill cylinder (lovely video of what that would look like if made for humans rather than aliens is here).

It’s very much a plot-driven story, very different from the now-customary character-driven approach. The sparsely sketched-out characters are there just as the vehicles for the exploration of the true protagonist - Rama itself, the enigmatic starship on an unknowable journey. And that was really interesting, having humans surrender the stage to the location as the true protagonist, because truly in the great scheme of things our existence doesn’t even seem to be a blip on Rama’s radar.
“Feeling extremely foolish, the acting representative of Homo sapiens watched his First Contact stride away across the Raman plain, totally indifferent to his presence.”

The point is Rama and the exploration of it — and not the humans. There are no character arcs, no romantic subplots, no conventional mysteries, no antagonists (), no monsters, no battles, no important knowledge exchange — nothing that you would associate with the conventional First Contact story. No, it’s just a journey trying - and failing - to understand an artifact. Maybe a bit of Solaris vibe in the idea that we may not get things and that it’s not about us.

Just sit back and look at the wonders and take notes and speculate on the whys and hows — and that worked so well for me.

It’s a novel that it engaging without actually trying too hard to be such.
“[…] It had given a final, almost contemptuous proof of its total lack of interest in all the worlds whose peace of mind it had so rudely disturbed.”

And I actually loved the ending — that the mysteries remain mysteries because they are not meant for humans to solve, because humans . I loved how everyone was taken down a peg.

Apparently there are sequels written many years later in collaboration with another writer, supposedly more in the “traditional” space opera style, different from this gem of a book. I haven’t decided whether I’m ready to unveil the mysteries of Rama or whether I am content sticking with it as a standalone story full of mysteries that we will never solve as they aren’t meant for us (as Clarke’s initial intention apparently was).

Probably it’s better to let it stand on its own.

Solid 4 stars.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews33 followers
December 17, 2021
Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke

Rendezvous with Rama is a science fiction novel by British writer Arthur C. Clarke first published in 1973.

Set in the 2130's, the story involves a 50-kilometre (31 mile) cylindrical alien star-ship that enters the Solar System.

The story is told from the point of view of a group of human explorers who intercept the ship in an attempt to unlock its mysteries.

The novel won both the Hugo and Nebula awards upon its release, and is regarded as one of the cornerstones in Clarke's bibliography. The concept was later extended with several sequels.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: در سال1995میلادی

این کتاب نخستین بار با ترجمه محمد قصاع در سال1371هجری خورشیدی در نشر افق نیز منتشر شده است؛ موضوع داستانهای خیال انگیز از نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده20م

عنوان: میعاد با راما ؛ نویسنده: آرتور چارلز (سی) کلارک؛ مترجم: هرمز حبیبی اصفهانی؛ تهران نشر نقطه، سال1374، در268ص، شابک ایکس-964554825

ادامه این داستان با عنوان «راما 2» یا «ادامه میعاد با راما» با برگردان جناب «ناصر بلیغ» در نشر نقطه در سال1375 در494ص به چاپ رسیده و به زیور طبع آراسته شده است شابک9645548276؛

کتابهای «میعاد با راما»، «راما دو»، «باغ راما» و «راز راما»، سری چهار جلدی از آثار «آرتور سی کلارک» هستند، مجموعه‌ ای بیهمتا که به روشنی، نمایانگر چیره‌ دستی «ک��ارک»، در آفرینش داستان‌های علمی-تخیلی هستند؛ «میعاد با راما»، در350صفحه است و آغاز این ماجراست؛ …؛ «راما» سفینه‌ ای غول پیکر، و استوانه‌ ای شکل است، که با سرعت سرسام آوری، گرد محور خویش می‌چرخد؛ …؛ از بیکران‌ها، گام در منظومه ی شمسی می‌نهد، و دانشمندان آن روزگاران را، انگشت به دهان می‌سازد

هدف کتاب، هشداریست به بشر، که زمین، تنها در معرض خطر سلاحهای مرگبار ساخته ی دست خود بشر نیست، بلکه در دسترس بمبهای فضایی نیز هست؛ «میعاد با راما»، با داستانهای واقعی برخورد شهاب سنگهای بزرگ، به زمین در سده ی بیستم میلادی، آغاز میشود، و سپس، به بعد ناشناخته، و رمز و راز چنین رویدادهایی، میپردازد؛ انسان، برای رویارویی با بمباران فضایی، رهسپار فضا میگردد، اما با حیات و تمدنی شگفت انگیز، و ناباورانه، روبرو میشود، که در فراسوی منظومه ی شمسی بوده است، و ساخته ی دست نیروهایی، بسیار هوشمندتر از انسانها است

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 26/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 25/09/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
554 reviews60.5k followers
June 7, 2018
I've been trying to read more classic sci-fi and my experience has been very hit and miss so far...

But this was a very interesting take on the whole "first contact with aliens"!

I do wish there was a bit more but it seems like I always do. Nevertheless the ending was pretty satisfying, would recommend!
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
November 1, 2017
Mysterious and engaging, classic science fiction.

I first read this back in high school, we'll just say a LONG time ago. Since then the concepts, ideas and themes surrounding this archetypal work of science fiction have been a huge influence on works in this genre. Clarke first published this Hugo and Nebula award winner in 1972. The first works that I think of that was influenced by RWR is John Varley's excellent Titan series, first coming out in 1979. His influence on Ridley Scott's Alien, also released in 1979, is clear.

What Clarke did was to affirm that there are and remain mysteries that we will not get, that there are some aspects of scientific research and observation that will remain over our heads.

******2017 reread – I’m advancing my rating, giving this a 5 star. I recall liking it as a younger man, but this is premier, elite SF.

Clarke deservedly won the SF triple crown for this work – Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell – as well as a host of other awards including the Locus and British SF Association Award. It’s that good. It should be on a short list of best SF ever.

Clarke’s Rama has all of what’s best in a SF story: future science, intrepid explorers, contact with aliens, space, rockets, and mystery. That last element is what wins here, we know about the Ramans, but not all about them by a long shot, there is still much more to know. He has, and we have vicariously through his story, only just scratched the surface of knowledge and what is learned, decades worth of knowledge according to Commander Norman, only leads to more questions.

Excellent, Science Fiction of the highest order.

Profile Image for Cassy.
250 reviews737 followers
September 7, 2010
Ladies, have you ever heard the advice that the more you cover up, the sexier you are? Forgo the plunging neckline for the small keyhole. Let the boys use their imagination. Hint, but don’t show.

Clarke evidently had. He dressed this book in a turtleneck, elbow-length gloves, trousers, work boots, and one of those hats with ear flaps. There is barely any flesh showing. What does show is intriguing – a mysterious spaceship, a beautiful flower, an unknown destination, buildings with no doors or windows, living machines. But the book stops the courtship at the flirting stage. Nothing happens. No answers. No aliens massacring the human exploration team.

While this was a nice departure from books nowadays that reveal everything, it was ultimately unsatisfying. Clarke withheld too much for me to really enjoy the book.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
469 reviews3,255 followers
April 23, 2022
A large ominous object is discovered entering a remote part of the Solar System in 2131, an impressive thirty miles long and heading in the direction of Earth.You can imagine the implications, indeed... causing a little nervousness back on our world, everyone knows what happened in 2077. If you don't remember since it hasn't occurred yet a large fireball hit the Earth killing hundreds of thousand of people, devastating the great cities and untold trillions of dollars in damages. At last in Project Spaceguard an early warning system was established, a kind of shield can be formed which protects precious Terra from being pulverized again by a roaming asteroid.They also tract the 500,000 space boulders found in the mystifying region between the orbits of distant Mars and Jupiter however now more than fifty years later a new crises arises. Can Spaceguard save us? If it collides with the third planet , Earth will be no more than a memory good or bad. Quickly acquiring the name Rama this large rock (from a Hindu God) , the object keeps surprising us , after a space probe takes pictures it's not an asteroid but an alien spaceship of tremendous size. The long feared aliens have arrived , peaceful or otherwise that is the question? Computer analysis shows the trajectory of Rama will miss Earth and go around the back side of the Sun out into the uncharted, blackness of deep Space, never we hope to return here again. Problem solved right, if you're a sci-fi fan you know better, but humans are not very trusting beings. So the spaceship Endeavour is sent to investigate in command is Captain Norton.When the crew of the Endeavour, finally get inside Rama they are amazed the alien spacecraft, is really a new , vast, strange world to say the least.The only way down to the bottom of Rama are stairways many miles in length, in the darkness so they go, try that folks! Even in low gravity creatures seen below are half animal and half robot"Biot", as they're named by the invaders and look peaceful still where are the Ramans...A large enchanting calm Sea, who believes their eyes here is also discovered by the people from Earth. Great "cities," weird blue lights and exotic structures unexplained atmospheric storms, electrical discharges this Noah's Ark has it all except answers.The crew of the Endeavour will they ever be able to solve the mystery of Rama,the alien craft is getting hotter and hotter as it nears the scorching Sun, time is limited so the explorers must work fast. If the crew could somehow get over the high cliff blocking them and into the unknown, south pole area of Rama . Maybe all the secrets will be explained....A glorious walk into the never-ending place we call imagination...Can't wait until the movie comes out by the same director who made the new Dune.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,005 reviews10.6k followers
January 24, 2014
An enormous alien structure enters our solar system and a team is dispatched to explore it before it drifts away and is lost forever. What will humanity discover after its Rendezvous with Rama?

Years ago, I decided I needed to read more hard science fiction. Then I read Ringworld and was so uninterested that I quit my hard sf quest before it began. Months ago, a copy of Rendezvous with Rama fell into my clutches. I decided to give it a try, despite my fears that it would be another Ringworld, a book where the concept far outweighs the story. Well, the concepts behind Rendezvous with Rama do outweigh the story but I found it far superior to Ringworld, a much more enjoyable reading experience.

As near as I can tell, Rendezvous with Rama is the first Big Dumb Object (or Megastructure, if you prefer) science fiction novel. For that reason alone, I'd say it's worth a read. Hell, that's why I read it.

The characters are weak but I think that's actually an asset for a story like this. My problem with Ringworld was that I didn't find any of the characters likeable and that overshadowed any sense of discovery I would have felt as they explored Ringworld. In Rama, the characters take a back seat to the Big Dumb Object from the first page.

Clarke's writing is workmanlike but does a surprisingly good job at conveying the wonder and majesty of Rama as the team explores it. As things heat up the closer Rama gets to the sun (see what I did there?), the book really takes off.

With today's special effects technology, I think it would be fantastic if an adaptation was filmed like a faux-documentary. Like that Mermaid one National Geographic put out, only not so cheesey.

I liked it but I didn't love it. There's not a lot of plot or character development. Or action, for that matter. Now that I've read it, I respect its place in the hard science fiction pantheon but the sense of wonder doesn't make up for its shortcomings so a three is as high as I can give it.

Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews927 followers
July 27, 2018
There was just enough detail to go with the all the mystery behind the alien ship hurtling through the solar system to make Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama an engaging and thought provoking read! Other than a spaceflight to intercept and explore the huge Raman spacecraft, there’s very little action in this novel and (unfortunately) very little character development. I do think there is a sense of wonder about the possibilities contained in the mysterious ship. The book whets your appetite to get to the bottom of some of the mysteries contained on the Raman spacecraft and maybe even meet some actual Ramans, but (given that the ship has a limited amount of time in the solar system), there are lots of unanswered questions. While Clarke doesn’t explain all the mysteries, that’s also a strength of the novel. We as readers supply some of our own answers about the possibilities. This makes Rendezvous with Rama an engaging read!

3.75 stars.
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews805 followers
September 7, 2016
Rendezvous With Rama starts off where lesser books would climax. To begin with parts of Italy are wiped out by an asteroid leading to the creation of the Spaceguard system for detecting future asteroids well in advance of collision so that preventative measures can be taken. Along comes another huge object initially mistaken for another asteroid but as it draws nearer turns out to be a ginormous spaceship with no apparent mean of propulsion. The ship is given the named Rama and the crew of Earth's survey ship Endeavour land on it and enter to investigate.

This is the father of the popular Big Dumb Object sci-fi trope which features humongous alien artifacts befuddling humanity when they are discovered or unexpectedly show up. I just reread this book immediately after finishing another BDO classic Gateway by Frederik Pohl. Gateway totally confounded my expectation because while it features a BDO the focus of the book is on the impact of this object on the life of the protagonist. Being confounded in this case is not too unpleasant as Gateway is a good though provoking read. However, it still left me with a hankering for some BDO adventure and Rendezvous With Rama provided this in spades. This book really is what it says on the tin and if you are in the market for some jaw dropping sense of wonder this is the one to pick up.

Arthur C. Clarke was a stupendous writer of sf, unlike a lot of scientist sf authors he could write with excellent transparency and clarity of vision. He is particularly brilliant at describing the minutiae of space voyages; just the simple act of walking up and down stairs in near zero gravity can become a vivid and fascinating adventure in his stories. Certainly with "Rama" Clarke gets a lot of millage from the cylindrical shape of Rama, the gravitational and centrifugal effects, the weather, the visual impact of the north and south poles, the sea as a cylindrical band etc.

My favourite Rama art by Jim Burns

That said it is worth noting that this is a novel of exploration, not essentially a pulse pounding action adventure on a dangerous planet, although there is an element of that also. The emphasis is more on the sense of wonder than sense of danger. There are many vividly imagined scenes in this book so clearly described that if you do an image search for "Rendezvous With Rama" on on Google you will find quite a few excellent artworks inspired by this book, a similar search on Youtube will also yield quite a few fan made videos (this short student film is my favrorite).

As usual Clarke did not write with literary flourishes and characterization was clearly not a priority for him. I find the central characters of this book almost interchangeable in their blandness. However I am not sure this is a weakness of Clarke's writing because his books are generally not very long and by not allocating many pages on developing the characters he is able to do a lot of world building, describing the minutiae and implications of his settings, and a spring a few surprises on his readers from his plotting.

I feel that Rendezvous With Rama complements Phol's Gateway very nicely, one is about the BDO, the other is about the psychological impact of a BDO. I recommend reading both.

Another view of Rama (don't know who it's by, sorry).
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
May 14, 2009
Giant alien spaceship is sighted. People go and check it out. It's full of cool stuff.

Clarke adds some sex to show that he isn't just a holdout from the Golden Age, but his heart's not in it. As soon as they've finished, he wants to go out and explore the spaceship again. I can see his girlfriend rolling her eyes.
Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
350 reviews942 followers
October 27, 2017
This book was SO BORING. Wow.

I did not care about any of these characters, they were only slightly different demeanor-wise, which I guess could be believable among astronauts, but it made for a really lacking characterization element.

Even during parts of the plot where danger was ensuing I felt no sense of danger & I had no feelings of hoping that the character in danger survived.

In this novel women hardly served a further purpose than to be a distraction for or sleep with the men. Sure they carried titles of importance but their actions didn't line up with their titles. And the men they're distracting are some of the flattest men I've ever read about so it's kind of a stretch for me to believe anyone would want to sleep with them.

The plot was also pretty weak, I never felt much of an urge to continue finding out what was going to happen. And then the end of book was entirely anticlimactic.

I know this is a huge classic amongst Sci-Fi lovers but I cannot even begin to understand which part everyone loves so much. On top of that, there is absolutely zero payoff for all that boring ass build up.

I struggled through this book at the recommendation of a friend. I've read that the next books are much better & that Clarke had a co-writer with him. I may give the sequel a chance but only after I've gargled a gallon of Listerine to get the bad taste out of my mouth.
Profile Image for Christopher Paolini.
Author 84 books36.1k followers
October 16, 2020
Classic hard sci-fi. Short, full of interesting ideas, and with one of the best ending lines in the genre. (Seriously, Hollywood, why haven’t you adapted this yet?) In many ways, a more human and interesting take on the first contact idea Clark explored in 2001.
Profile Image for Zain.
1,458 reviews154 followers
April 20, 2023
A Delightful Journey!

The Earth spaceship Endeavor is tasked with visiting an alien civilization on a spacecraft that they have named Rama. They eventually arrive at their destination and immediately begin their exploration of the spacecraft that’s the size of a small planet.

Captain Norton and his crew are awestruck and amazed by the Raman architecture and technology. The design of the cities is marvelous and the technical capabilities of the biots (robots) are impressive.

Rama is its own unique world of engineering and construction and activity. There is a North Pole and a South Pole and there are four suns in its sky.

Rama has the same things on its surface that we have to put up with on Earth. I’m talking about hurricanes and tornadoes, and electrical storms and earthquakes. It even has a cylindrical sea.

The author has ensured that the book is read fast by keeping all the chapters short. And by giving each chapter a cliffhanger he makes it harder to put the book down.

I am fascinated by this book.

Five stars. 💫💫💫💫💫
Profile Image for Gary.
442 reviews195 followers
January 4, 2017
I originally read this in junior high, when I first eagerly devoured all the writings of the "Big 3". This reread is part of a project to revisit the classics I read in my youth, now with my pesky adult brain in tow.
Rendezvous with Rama is pretty much the prototype for what people complain about when they say "they don't make 'em like they used to." It is also, by consequence, exactly what others are criticizing when they say "they shouldn't make 'em like that anymore." It is essentially a hard sci-fi narrative centered around scientific discovery and methodical problem solving by its hyper-competent hero(es). It is an exciting story filled with all manner of wondrous events and inventions and landscapes to explore, and can easily be enjoyed at face value, hence the four stars. It's a darn good read, no question.
What I have recently noticed upon re-evaluating our holy trinity of Clarke, Asimov, and Heinlein, is that their sins were the collective sins of the Anglo-American golden age of sci-fi. There is very little in the way of emotional engagement with the characters, and Clarke in particular seems to regard other humans and their behavior with clinical interest at most - as if the inner life of his characters is only a necessary component of their existence insofar as it can explain their choices or their responses to stimuli. The social sciences were also poorly represented by these authors and their colleagues; being almost wholly obsessed with hard science, their future histories feel more like they were engineered in a controlled experiment, rather than having developed from any of the cultural conflicts and movements that really shape history. Science fiction will always date badly in some ways, because speculating about the future based on present day understandings is never going to be 100% accurate; however, the future society posited in Rendezvous with Rama is impossibly naïve in its conception and comes across as surprisingly reactionary, especially since Clarke was usually lumped in with the political left in the SF community.
I know, I know, "That's just how things were done back then!" There were plenty of writers from the olden timey days who didn't, though. There's a reason why John W. Campbell hated PKD's writing, for example. And also, there are plenty of authors who still do it that way (have you read Neal Stephenson?)
As a time capsule work, though, Rama is almost peerless in its execution, and definitely worth the read, even if our modernized adult brains have to let a few things slide to make it work.
Profile Image for Adrian.
573 reviews209 followers
December 30, 2020
I think if I could, I’d give this 6 stars ⭐️

More unworthy thoughts on an amazing novel tomorrow 😬

So where do I start with this novel. I first read this oh some time back in the mid 1970s, when I first started reading "grown -up" Sci-fi books. Arthur C was a name I knew from the 1968 film and book 2001, so by the time Rama came out I had read a few of his books.
However this book, just blew my mind. The writing is as ever wonderful in its scope, its descriptions, its scene setting, its characters and of course the story. I suppose during the 70s after Apollo we were all (especially the young) very much taken by anything to do with space, so sci-fi was exceedingly popular, as was SETI or even First Contact. This is just such a wonderfully written First Contact novel.
I suppose in its immensity it rivals Niven's Ringworld or even the concept of Dyson Spheres; an enormous cylinder that slowly spins creating internal gravity.

Another thing that struck me is how modern this novel is, ok there aren't mobile phones but one would never guess that this novel is nearly 50 years old, it just doesn't feel that old or even dated.

Hey, I could just go on chucking out random thoughts as to why this an amazing novel, and although I realise it will not be to everyone's taste, I feel it should be on the list of novels one should read during one's lifetime. Don't miss it.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,678 reviews5,253 followers
November 7, 2011
i like world-building in science fiction and fantasy. in these modern times, extensive world-building is commonly derided... it is often seen as a lazy way to create a world, telling not showing, an author so in love with something they've built that they just want to describe instead of allowing the reader to slowly experience. i understand that point of view; world-building can often be seen as a glorified, masturbatory info-dump. but for some reason, it just doesn't bother me too much. i think this is because with good world-building, i feel like i am looking at a kind of work of art created by the author - a rather nerdy work of art, sure - but still something that a person has put a lot of thought, energy, and passion into. i really respond to all those details that the author is in love with sharing. but maybe i just have a high threshold for these kinds of things, as i'm also the kind of person who likes to hear all the details in a person's dreams.

Rendezvous takes world-building to a different sort of place: Clarke is artifact-building. the amazing alien spaceship Rama is indeed amazing; almost the entire novel is devoted to exploring this gigantic vessel. most of the narrative is in service to purely descriptive passages of Rama; everything else is either minimal characterization or political discussions from various scientists & ambassador types about how to respond to Rama. all of this very focused world-building has the potential for much boredom and irritation. but i never felt that; the author's love for his creation is too clear, his details are too meticulous, his sense of wonder and his ability to concretely illustrate the almost-unknowable are too skilled, too palpable. despite my feeling that this novel essentially functions as a prologue to the 'real' action to come, i got caught up in Clarke's passion and enjoyed it all.

for such a man of science and large-scale concepts, Clarke is a surprisingly warm writer. his characters are pleasant - and real. there are no grand villains, at least not in this initial volume of the series. and he has a sense of humor - particularly around sex (one character is described as having no interest in anything outside of work, except for sports and sex - preferably combined; a high-level scholar is described as originally making his reputation through researching "puberty rites in late-twentieth-century Beverly Hills"). for all of the high-falutin' ideas on display, there is zero pretension present in Rendezvous.

although the novel ends before anything actually happens, there does seem to be interesting directions that the series could go. the slight mining of sexuality and gender roles could lead somewhere. and politics - particularly around how government responds to the unknown - are clearly an intriguing next step. i'm looking forward to seeing how this series pans out.

all that said, as far as Giant Mysterious Alien Artifacts go, right now my favorite is still Greg Bear's Eon - which in many ways appears to be an homage to Rama.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,217 reviews9,907 followers
May 3, 2021
It was only after I’d read Rendezvous with Rama that I found out it was a Big Dumb Object story. I mean, I knew Rama, the mysterious alien spaceshippy thing which appears in our solar system, was an object, and was dumb too – it doesn’t say a word to a soul, not one word – and yes, it was big too, really big. Bigger than a whale! Ten whales! But I didn’t put it all together. However, some critics did, and unkindly pointed out that quite a bit of science fiction is about Big Dumb Objects which humans stumble upon and then spend some time poking or landing on or using a can opener on. Fanboys like to gaze upon their bigness and have a shivery awe-fit. In the SF fanboy world, big is big. I read Eon and Ringworld and sure enough they are all about Big Dumb Objects. “It must be 10,000 kilometers long!” etc. And in The Incredible Shrinking Man everything eventually becomes a Big Dumb Object. That’s what happens if you just carry on shrinking. Course, if you become the incredible growing man, then even mile long spaceships become mere thimbles, and you can wear them on your gigantic fingertips. “I use your mile long spaceships as thimbles, ha harrr!”

Actually in Rendezvous with Rama it’s all a bit queasy – astronauts daringly land on it then walk about prodding it and waiting for it to – what – burst into life, exfoliate, produce something, sing - don’t just lie there! – it’s like they’re a bunch of gynaecologists poking around in a stupendously large and complex womb. Maybe Arthur Clarke had problems with his mum, or maybe terrible sibling rivalry – this giant womb is gonna produce a brother or sister who will render earth a smouldering ember! Could be I’m reading too much into all this. But that’s Big Dumb Objects for you, they scream out for interpretation. They’re all in analysis. But they don’t get much out of it. They never speak and they break the analyst’s couch.
Profile Image for Scurra.
189 reviews32 followers
January 2, 2009
For heaven's sake, don't expect great writing from this book. For all his talent, Clarke wasn't a wordsmith (heck, even Asimov could write better!)
Instead, simply glory in one of the cleverest conceits you will ever read - an encounter with an alien civilisation in which the aliens are absent and there is no convenient "universal translator" to explain things. Slowly you can begin to piece things together, keeping maybe one step ahead of the astronauts, but you become aware that trying to understand Raman culture is like trying to appreciate the Sistene Chapel ceiling without ever having read the Bible - you could create an explanation, but it would be utterly and magnificently wrong.

All I ask is that you don't make the mistake of going on and reading the pointless sequels. Yes, I understand why they were written, but I can never forgive them for ruining the magic of the original. Just take this one and enjoy.
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
811 reviews1,269 followers
June 10, 2020
"The long-hoped-for, long-feared encounter had come at last. Mankind was about to receive the first visitor from the stars."

Watching the launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 yesterday, I was thrilled and mesmerized and briefly able to forget all the other shit that's happening in the world. 

When I came back down to earth, I just couldn't stop wondering what we humans could do if we put aside our hatred and intolerance and began working together as one human race.

Here we are sending two astronauts back into space, to a life-sustaining station we have built up there. We have put men (next we need a woman!) on the moon and created robots that we sent to explore Mars.

So much we have done. And yet....... 

After watching the launch, I had a quick foray through my Facebook feed only to be overcome with sadness and anger at all the injustice in this world. All the racism, the hatred, the murder. Instead of working for the better of the human race, instead of fighting our common enemy Covid19, we have here in the US another cop killing a Black man for the crime of too much melanin. Another.

When will it end?

It didn't end with the abolishment of slavery. It didn't end with the Civil Rights movement. It didn't end when America elected our first Black president.

It didn't end.

And so it was with relief that I picked up my Kindle and escaped back into the future. A future where humans have colonized our solar system and have hopefully begun seeing and treating each other as equals. 

I enjoyed Rendezvous with Rama. It is at times slow-moving and yet this is necessary to set the scene for the following three books in the series. 

It was exciting to go along as astronauts explored this unknown space-world, discovering what they could about the species who built it. It is likely millions of years old and no life remains; the ship is sterile. 

Our main character draws parallels to the voyages of James Cook, as he and his team begin traversing this cylindrical world. I enjoyed following this expedition much more than I do sci-fi in which humans and alien life forms are in a galactic battle, using lasers and other advanced technology to kill each other. 

It's not all a bed of roses though, and there are unforeseen dangers awaiting them as they try to learn what they can and solve the mystery of who built this space-faring world.

Unfortunately, the underlying sexism that permeates much of classic science fiction poked its ugly head into this story. I guess we haven't reached true equality for everyone after all. 

Commander Norton, who is leading this excursion into Rama, feels that attractive, shapely women, "should not be allowed aboard ship; weightlessness did things to their breasts that were too damn distracting".

Eye roll, WTF, SMH, Sigh....... 🙄

Oddly(?), these humans of the future also felt the need to force others into a life of subjection and slavery. This made absolutely no sense to me. They have advanced technology that allows them to traverse and colonize the solar system and yet, instead of artificially intelligent robots to do the menial work aboard the ship, they genetically modify chimps to raise their IQs, enabling them to do all the cooking and cleaning and dirty work. These superchimps are obviously not free and though we see no violence enacted against them, it is still a form of slavery of another intelligent and sentient being. 

Arther C. Clarke couldn't possibly have envisioned intelligent non-sentient robots in their stead?? Isn't he the one who created Hal 9000?

Im Sorry Dave Im Afraid ICant Do That GIF - ImSorryDave ImAfraidICantDoThat GIFs

Shame, shame, shame. I would have been OK with this in the story if even just one person spoke out against it and Clarke used it to point out the evils of slavery. Instead, it seemed normal and acceptable to all.

While I enjoyed exploring the alien world of the Ramans and wonder from where it came, I'm not sure I will continue the series.  I like science fiction that is more political (and more scientific).... showing the ills of our current society and how they might be amended.  I want to be able to escape the evils of our present world when I read science fiction, not read more of it.

3.5 stars rounded up. 
June 1, 2023
Rendezvous with Rama is more thrilling, unpredictable, and tightly written than I vaguely remember from my teens. It solidly stands the test of time far better than many other 50 year-old books. Characters are fairly shallow, mainly vehicles for the plot which is brisk and mainly a vehicle itself for ideas, hard SF and a sense of wonder in the unknown. It's clearly influenced by Solaris and Roadside Picnic in dropping humans deep into the unknowably alien.

Rama must have been a favorite of a young Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (James S.A. Corey). The receipts for Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse series) are all here - Humanity has begun to spread into the solar system, an alien extra-solar object, the crew of a working ship are thrown into adventure, and rising political tensions between factions within our solar system.

5 Stars for a masterpiece of Hard Science Fiction.
Profile Image for Dennis.
658 reviews276 followers
February 21, 2021
This 1973 novel won the Hugo, Nebula and John W. Campbell Award, as well as the Locus Award and several others. It’s certainly one of those books that someone that is interested in science fiction should read at some point in their life.

For me it was a reread, and I was curious to see if and how my opinion about it was going to change, four years on from that first read. Especially after I had slightly downgraded my rating of Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey just recently. The short answer, it hasn’t.

It’s a first contact novel in which a large object enters the solar system, is found to be artificial, and the crew of a spaceship is sent to explore. And that’s where the book is rather great. The design of Rama, the science behind it, the exploration, the mystery, it is fantastic.

The novel is not as strong when it comes to characters. Literally minutes after I had finished the book, I was trying to remember of how many people the crew of Endeavour consisted, and already I couldn’t. Because they are all highly forgettable.

Funny side note: In 2001: A Space Odyssey the spaceship was called Discovery. Here, like I said, it’s Endeavour, and there are three other ships mentioned, one of which is named Challenger (the other two are Calypso and Beagle). While Clarke certainly didn’t get super creative with those names, neither did NASA in their Space Shuttle program.

Anyways, the book is certainly one that is driven by plot rather than characters. And I’m fine with that. It won’t be for everyone, though. And for one particular reason it isn’t really for me either. The thing is, I am one of those readers that tend to skim over long passages with descriptions of landscapes and the like. And by design, that is an important part of this novel. However, I must admit that Clarke did a formidable job here. At no point was I skimming because the way he imagined Rama is just so impressive. At the same time, it was always unlikely that I was going to love this book.

I did however love the sense of mystery. Thankfully, I have a rather pathetic memory when it comes to books. So, while it did all come back when I was reading it, I was never able to say what exactly would happen next.

Is this world alive? they asked themselves, over and over again. Is it dead? Or is it merely sleeping?

Find out for yourself. It is certainly worth doing so.

Am I a fan of the ending? Well, yes and no. We would get into serious spoiler territory now, so I can’t go into any details. One word of caution though. While the sense of mystery in this book is strong, if you are one of those readers that needs to have all the answers by the end, this might, after all, not be the book for you.

3.5 – 4 stars



This has been a buddy read with Vero, Diane and Jorid. Thanks for the interesting discussion, guys.
Profile Image for Kevin Kelsey.
412 reviews2,221 followers
January 21, 2022
This is the BIG DUMB OBJECT novel, and I'm a sucker for BDOs. However, I've read a lot of BDO stories/novels, and only just now got around to reading their great-great-grandfather story, which isn't really the order I should've approach things in.

I found it to be enjoyable, but since it had absolutely nothing else going for it besides the BDO - no interesting characters, no brilliant prose, etc - it was ultimately just okay.

This would've blown my mind had I read it at a much younger age, and I fully get why those that read this as their introduction to BDOs or just huge idea science fiction in general, were blown away by it.

Villeneuve is tackling this one as a film after he finishes DUNE PT 2, and with the introduction of interesting characters, this will crush as a movie. Very excited to see it adapted.
Profile Image for Duane.
828 reviews431 followers
September 22, 2017
This is one of my all-time favorite science fiction novels. Arthur C. Clarke's 1973 classic made a clean sweep of the genre's awards, winning the Campbell, Hugo, Jupiter, and Nebula awards. The concept of the story is brilliant. The planet sized, spinning, cylindrical world of Rama is the star of the story, featuring a sea that circles the inside of the cylinder. The visuals created by Clarke were stunning. What will mankind make of this interstellar traveling alien world? I loved it, couldn't put it down.
Profile Image for Saimi Vasquez.
1,429 reviews67 followers
June 22, 2023
En el siglo XXII la humanidad se ha expandido por todo el Sistema Solar, habiendo ahora colonias en la Luna, Mercurio, Marte, La Luna y varios satélites de Pluton, Urano y Saturno. La humanidad ha tenido mucho cuidado en mantener una extrema vigilancia a todos los "asteroides" o "cometas" que entren en el Sistema Solar, sobre todo si sus tamanos son suficientemente grande como para destruir alguna de las colonias. Así que cuando descubren a este extrano satélite de mas de 40km de largo y con forma cilíndrica, los Embajadores Planetarios toman la decision de explorarlo, y si es posible tomar algún tipo de muestras. Así que el comandante Norton capitán de la nave Endeveour es el encargado de hacer la exploración del Satélite llamado "Rama". Ahora lo que descubrirán puede cambiar por completo la forma de ver el espacio, y responder la pregunta "Estamos solos en el Universo?"

Entiendo porque este libro es denominado un "Clásico de la Ciencia Ficción", el concepto, la trama, la narrativa, todo en el libro te absorbe y te lleva al mundo que esta creando. Este es un libro que maneja conceptos bastantes complejos sobre el espacio, tiempo, dimensiones, exploración, política, de una manera tan sencilla que no te confunde ni distrae de la lectura.
Lo único que puedo decir que no me gusto mucho del libro, fue la forma como describe los escenarios, porque debes conocer de que ciudades esta hablando para ver las semejanzas entre una cosa y la otra. Ademas, la forma como cambia el punto de vista del narrador me confundió en algunos momentos, porque los cambios son tan rápidos y fluidos, que a veces tienes que pausar la lectura y re-interpretar el texto cuando te das cuenta del cambio de personaje.
En fin, es un excelente libro de ciencia ficción, un clásico y algo que realmente debería leer todo fanático de este genero.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,206 reviews3,218 followers
March 4, 2023
4.0 Stars
This was a solid sci fi space opera adventure. With a fast pace narrative and short chapters, this was an engaging pageturner from start to finish. I liked this one, despite not having a significant connection to the characters. It was simply an engaging novel and I would recommend it as an accessible read for readers trying to get into the classics.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,619 reviews985 followers
March 1, 2020
SF Masterworks #65: Wow! My first Arthur C. Clarke and it was very compelling. A couple of centuries in the future and mankind has settled all over the Solar System, when an 'asteroid' turns out to be much more! The nearest fastest spaceship is called to investigate what has now been christened 'Rama'. Clarke with perfect pacing and compelling storytelling tells this story of one big step for mankind! I just had no idea how good Clarke's work was/is! Technically 9 out of 12 and a Four Star read, but extremely close to a Five Star read, and the only thing that stopped me, was needing somewhere to go if Clarke brings something even better, which I presume he will! Some of this classic sci-fi is top class stuff... give it a go, you won't regret it. #SFMaserworks
Profile Image for Alialiarya.
181 reviews33 followers
December 17, 2022
هیچ‌کس در پیشگویی هوشمندانه به پای آرتور سی کلارک نمی‌رسد
ایزاک آسیموف

بنظرم اگه یکم از دعوای تاریخی و تمام نشدنی بین سه راس ادبیات علمی تخیلی فاصله بگیریم و همچنین آثار پنجاه سال قبل علمی تخیلی را با منطق‌ها و جهان زمان خودشون بسنجیم بی‌نهایت میشه از ملاقات با راما لذت برد. جهان غریب سی کلارک یکی از اوج‌هاش رو تو راما رقم زده، یک سفینه‌ی عجیب که مهمان سیاره‌ی ماست و اطلاعات‌مان درباره‌ی آن تقریبا صفر است. حالا یک تیم با پشتوانه سیاسی گروه‌های مختلف تلاش می‌کند از رازهای آن سردربیاورد. مشخصا جلد اول این مجموعه برای مخاطب آشنا با علمی تخیلی در ده سال اخیر می‌تواند کمی کسل کننده باشد اما همان‌طور که گفتم با مقایسه‌ی آثار سی کلارک با هم‌نسلان‌اش در حیرت می‌مانیم. ملاقات با راما را باید آرام خواند و غرق شخصیت‌ها و خیالات سی کلارک شد. آن نابغه‌ی خیال‌پرداز‌ که با هر داستان‌اش یادآوری می‌کند انسان در مسیر علم چه شگفتی‌هایی را درپیش خواهد داشت
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,605 reviews2,309 followers
February 15, 2022
Rendezvous with Rama
(Rama #1)
by Arthur C. Clarke
This was a re-read for me! I read this when it first came out! I didn't remember much just that I enjoyed it then and still do. I read that someone is making this into a movie! I hope that's true!
It would be amazing! I would love to see how they make a world in a cylinder!
Profile Image for Simon Clark.
Author 1 book4,979 followers
March 24, 2020
Strange read, but I really liked it.

This was my first Arthur C. Clarke - though the movie adaptation of 2001 is one of my all-time favourites that I've repeatedly rewatched - and definitely will not be my last. As sci fi nerd with scientific training from the west country, on paper Clarke (no relation) should be my perfect author. And Rendezvous with Rama is dead on the bullseye of my interests. It blends hard, hard sci-fi with the kind of near-futurism that I find fascinating, and succeeds in creating a seriously spooky ambience in a compelling scenario: the first extraterrestrial object, clearly artificial, to enter the solar system.

Yet despite hitting all of my buttons, and being breezily written (I read the whole book in maybe three sittings) I found it strikingly uncompelling in a few ways. Clarke - and maybe this common to his writing, or just to this book (I'll need to find out) - seems bizarrely indifferent to the niceties of characterisation. A character is frequently introduced as, for example, Claire who is a sailor. Tom who is a cyclist. Mary who is a doctor. These individuals are then used according to their one note characters in the melody of a story which has no real overarching structure. Perhaps it's because of the hyper-realism of hard sci fi, but there was no traditional story structure to speak of. Or if there was one - and there kind of is to do with the Hermians - it had no tension whatsoever.

In short, the setting and ideas are fantastic, and this has some of my favourite world building I've ever seen in sci-fi. Undoubtedly this was incredibly influential on stories told afterwards. But the story that was told in that setting was - to me - severely lacking.

Still, looking forward to reading more Clarke!
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