cover image Garden of Rama

Garden of Rama

Arthur Charles Clarke. Bantam Books, $20 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-07261-7

Introduced in Clarke's 1973 Hugo- and Nebula-winning Rendezvous with Rama and most recently seen in Clarke and Lee's Rama II , the massive spacecraft Rama is back, but the luster and sense of wonder generated by its first appearances have eroded. The once-exciting vessel, a ``cylindrical worldlet,'' has been turned into a cheaply painted backdrop for an equally garish exposition of vice-lord politics. When Rama returns to earth and demands a sample of humanity for observation, a lying, corrupt government hands over 2000 citizens. These individuals serve as a microcosm to reflect most of today's big sociological problems, thus implying that in 300 years no existing problems will have been solved nor will any others have been created. Clarke's unmistakable style is sadly lacking. Essentially, the book suffers from an imbalance between what occurs onstage and what offstage. Minor characters are built up with detailed introductions and then generally ignored. Major events, about which reader interest has been piqued, are skipped, then given a one-sentence review. Potentially captivating interactions with aliens and advanced technology are ignored. Readers are advised to give this voyage a miss and wait for Rama's next adventure. (Aug.)