Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece

Michael Benson. Simon & Schuster, $30 (512p) ISBN 978-1-5011-6393-7
Benson (Otherworlds) celebrates the 50th anniversary of the classic SF film 2001: A Space Odyssey with this wide-ranging, if somewhat lopsided, chronicle of the collaboration between director Stanley Kubrick and novelist-turned-screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke. It plays out as a straightforward production history but one set apart by the project’s massive scale and extended gestation period, from Kubrick making first contact with Clarke in 1964, with a two-page letter proposing “doing the proverbial ‘really good’ science fiction movie,” to the film’s 1968 release. Unfortunately, Benson struggles to cover his protracted story, which is alternately sketchy and repetitive. Key figures, such as special effects expert Douglas Trumbull and actor Keir Dullea, are introduced quickly only to disappear for long stretches (helpfully, Benson does includes a list of major characters). In the end, this is very much Clarke’s story. Even after 500 pages, the reserved, controlling Kubrick feels like a distant figure. Clarke emerges far more vividly, with Benson, who befriended Clarke near the end of his life, offering a uniquely privileged glimpse of the author’s personality—“an earnest manner leavened by his quick wit”—and day-to-day life as a British expat in Sri Lanka. But readers will be disappointed to expend this much time on 2001 and still come away knowing only part of the story. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2018
Release date: 04/03/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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Paperback - 512 pages - 978-1-5011-6394-4
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