Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2001, a Space Odyssey

So I just finished reading the book based off the screen play of A Space Odyssey 2001. I remember seeing the end of the movie and thinking something along the lines of "and we now interrupt this story line for a demonstration in abstract art and special effects." I figured the book might make more sense. Who knows maybe I could make sense of the movie if I watched it now that I'm older.

In any case, it seems to me if the book was a faithful representation of the movie, it was a classic movie not because of itself but because of its release in the context of the space race. The idea of finding alien artifacts upon the start of any real new wave of space travel leading to a breakthrough in technology is a well trodden path. But the entire spirit transformation quasi god thing going on was just a little bit over the top. Why pray tell would any such advanced race of beings care to automatically transform a newcomer into one of themselves and then unleash him on the world? Its not as if they bestowed him with any special level of wisdom that made his new found powers good for him to have. But in the context of the space race the message is "We'd better be first because the growth of technology, specifically space technology, is the path to godhood. And if we aren't first, we won't be omnipotent" Blah blah blah... I don't care how classic the presentation is I have no inclination to believe the increase of technology is going to cause any intrinsic moral good for anybody. Just makes the fabric of society through which good and evil play out richer textured, more frenetic, and more powerful for whatever a good organizer can do with it. All in all the book bored me.

To add to my boredom is a knowledge of how little military significance the space race actually held. It was a big public relations event to showcase the technical achievements of different economic systems. But as far as anything practical goes?... who cares if the soviets can build bigger rockets if they built bombs so huge it took a bigger rocker to carry essentially the same destructive power we could already do with a smaller rocket. Not that I'm complaining too harshly... I like microchip computers. And I prefer a science competition to a heap of politically necissary murders called war anyday.

Contrast the Space Odyssey with my other current read "The Never Ending Story." I'm finding the book and the movie have little similarity in their symbolic content. The movie is a Freudian story of creation with a crisis involving unbalanced male and female elements and a end of creation from a lack of imagination. The book is a rich allegory of how our beliefs and myths can change. It may not be the greatest book ever written, but it has a lot to say about how our beliefs influence who we are, and how we grant new meaning to old beliefs as time passes, and how beliefs change in turn influencing who we are. I come away with something I didn't have before in reading it.

I love a good sci fi story, but I'm afraid I won't be picking up the sequal to the Space Odyssey.

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