"2061: Odyssey Three" by Arthur C. Clarke
What I like about Arthur C. Clarke's science fiction is that there's plenty of SCIENCE in it. In this respect, his books stand in stark contrast to much of the genre. All sci-fi authors pepper their stories with scientific terms and theories, but these terms and theories are often non-essential elements in the story they are telling.
In Clarke's ficition, however, his story is predicated upon a scientific understanding of our world and the cosmos, and this understanding could not be separated from the story. In this he was much more of a realist than other authors, many of whose application of scientific prinicples is purely cosmetic, and whose main preoccupation could be encompassed within the term "gadgetry."
"2061: Odyssey Three" is the third of four books in Clarke's Odyssey series. He wrote the first of these books in close partnership with the director Stanley Kubrick, whose "2001: A Space Odyssey" is one of the landmark films of the 1960s. Since both Clarke and Kubrick worked so closely on the production of the book and accompanying film, it is hard to say where due credit ought to be given for either work. Many of Clarke's ideas served as the origin points for aspects of the film, and many of Kubrick's ideas and criticisms made their way into the novel.
The sequel to 2001, "2010: Odyssey Two", is more easily attributed to Clarke himself, written as it was long after Kubrick's involvement had ended. This book follows Heywood Floyd, introduced in the first film/movie, as he joins a crew of Russian cosmonauts in a journey to Jupiter's moon, Europa.
In the background of this novel is also the parallel journey of David Bowman, transformed by alien intelligences into the StarChild, as he journeys back to Earth with an important message. The book closes with the discovery of alien lifeforms on Europa, the transformation of Jupiter into Lucifer, another sun, and a warning that humankind is not to interfere with matters on Europa.
By the time 2061 rolls around, mankind has grown used to the fact that there are other, non-human intelligences inhabiting the same solar system. Research continues in the vicinity of Europa, though humans scrupulously observe a no-contact policy with regard to whatever beings might inhabit it.
As you might guess, someone ends up on Europa anyway, in the form of a spaceship crash landing on the new world. "2061: Odyssey Three" details the journey of Heywood Floyd's new ship, the Universe, as it attempts to rescue the crew of the stranded ship. Along the way they almost meet the alien life forms of Europa, but are in the end discouraged from looking any further into the matter.
As a book, I found 2061 much less interesting than its predecessor. The story didn't seem to hold together the way the previous two did, and many of the strands Clarke tried to weave together were just left hanging there, unused. I'm hoping that some of these loose ends are tied up in the final book of this series, "3001: The Final Odyssey."