Extension of scale an advantage science fiction has over other forms of literature, it’s an idea Clarke puts to best use in Rendezvous with Rama. Rather than in a three dimensional sense wherein space extends infinitely, he instead uses scale to show how humanity and its accomplishments take on new meaning when viewed from the perspective of the cosmic unknown.
Bearing strong resemblance to the writings of Stanislaw Lem, Rendezvous with Rama tells the story of earth’s brief encounter with an enormous object/spacecraft that one day in a not-so-distant future suddenly appears traversing our solar system. Obviously the work of an intelligent species, the object nonetheless appears lifeless. And when explored by a team of scientists and astronauts, more questions than answers seem to arise as Clarke’s simple yet effective prose progressively reveals the strange details of the object’s interior. What the team comes to understand about the object in the end remains a powerful statement regarding earth’s position in the overall scope of the universe.
Not a novel in conventional terms – there being no true climax or resolve – the book is nonetheless a brilliantly imaginative exploration of both an alien space craft and the fragility of life. Clarke writes many beautiful scenes: the team’s hesitance entering the object, Johnny’s flight in the aero-glider through the static fields, and the discovery of the “museum” perhaps most prominent among them, leaving the reader humbled as to the possibilities of the infinite beyond. Far from space opera, this book is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys the literary end of science fiction.