Both the novel and the film of the same title were simultaneously produced between
1964 and 1968, a year before Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon. The film was finished slightly before
the novel. The two productions were a cooperative venture by two contrasting men - Arthur C. Clarke
and Stanley Kubrick.
Clarke's book is based on several of his short stories, e.g. The Sentinel (1948) and
Encounter in the Dawn. But most of the novel was freshly conceived by Clarke when writing it
in 'room 108 of the famous New York Hotel Chelsea at 222 W 23rd Street'.
The novel sets off with Moon-Walker and his fellow-creatures, man-apes living in some African caves.
One day they encounter the enigmatic apparition of the New Rock, a crystalline slab which is to guide
them to higher levels of intelligence and civilization and into a future where they will even reach
out for the stars. By taking advantage of tools they develop into a species which is to be superior
to all other creatures. At the end of their existence they are to develop weapons and guided missiles by which
they will conquer the world and even venture into space. But on the other hand, there is the risk that man
is to use nuclear weapons by which they will eventually exterminate themselves.
The second chapter, called T.M.A.-1 - which stands for Tycho Magnetic Anomaly-One - is set on the Moon.
There people have built Clavius Base, a huge self-supporting bridgehead in the prospect of finding living space for man in case
Earth is getting overpopulated or in case of eminent destruction of the world by nuclear weapons. The
scientist Dr Floyd is called to the Moon as only he is able to solve some problem which has arisen there.
A shuttle takes him to the Moon where he is welcomed. He is led to T.M.A.-1, the Tycho monolith, a
vertical slab of black material, about ten feet high and five feet wide. It has been dug out by the Moon crew
because of its unsually high magnetic powers. Its substance and form suggest that it must have been
dug in there c. 3 million years ago by some highly civilized people of the Solar System or beyond. When
it was exposed to sunlight it sent off piercing electronic screams which could be received as rippling
disturbances not only on Earth, but also the whole Solar System.
The following chapters up to the last, called The Sentinel, comprise the main part of the story and
deals with man's travel through space (Jupiter, Saturn etc.). The crew of the spaceship, called Discovery,
consist of Frank Poole, David Bowman, three crew members who have been set to 'hibernation' and a robot,
called HAL 9000, the most sophisticated machine, even able to speak and react to feelings. Being embarrassed
due to a malfunction, HAL causes the death of Frank Poole. After the three hibernating crew members also had to
be discarded, Bowman had to get rid of HAL, too, as he feared that he might also kill him. Having deactivated
him, Bowman cruises through space encountering the most extraordinary sights: images of unblurred sharpness, black holes,
utmost heat near Saturn or icecold rings of gas around Jupiter. But he also experiences periods
of loneliness and excitement.
Bowman knows that he won't live much longer - too far is Earth away for him to return. For him the beliefs of many
religions become reality: his mind frees itself from matter. The flesh-and-blood body, like the robot body,
has only been 'a stepping-stone to something which ..man had called spirit'. Before matter and mind
separate with Bowman, he discovers a huge, black block of rock on one of Saturn's moons. To land on it, Bowman
enters the extarvehicular spaceship (=space-pod) and leaves Discovery, his mothership, but only
to realize that he has been deceived. He can't land on the black rock as it is the gate to skies full of stars.
He enters the gate, it closes behind him and the moon Japetus is alone again, 'as it had been for
3 million years'.
Bowman relives his life in a state beyond consciousness until his birth. In a time warp he can even see
the crystalline rectangular monolith, which he looks into , but cannot understand its meaning, i.e.
that this was the origin of many races beside his own.
In the meantime Dr Floyd (from chapter 1) discovers some huge metal pyramid on top of a high mountain,
when crossing some valley on the Moon. He is inquisitive enough to go and climb the mountain and eventually realizes that
this unusual apparition is sort of a machine having been left behind by some people who neither lived on the Moon
nor on Earth. The machine is a sentinel (hence the title of the chapter), one of millions throughout the Universe.
They are watching over all worlds with the promise of life. But life on Earth is not going to last unless the
conquest of atomic energy has been achieved.
More about 2001 - A Space Odyssey in the Internet Resource Archive.