“According to the history books—though no one could really believe it—there had been a time when the old United Nations had 172 members. The United planets had only seven; and that was sometimes bad enough.”
This is a wonderful first-contact story. There’s a giant asteroid (named Rama, after the Hindu god) that’s approaching the Solar System. The UP (United Planets) soon discovers that it isn’t an asteroid, but a giant alien vessel, and decides to send a crew to check it out. All of this happens at the beginning. The rest of the book is a captivating exploration of Rama itself.
My favorite thing about this story is that, for once, we (humans) don’t get to figure everything out. The crew of Endeavor had a hundred million more questions at the end of their mission than they did when they first approached Rama. This book might leave you unsatisfied at the end, as it did me, but it’ll also leave you fascinated.
“Even in the twenty-second century, no way had yet been discovered of keeping elderly and conservative scientists from occupying crucial administrative positions. Indeed, it was doubted if the problem ever would be solved.”
“As indeed he was, being a devout member of the Fifth Church of Christ Cosmonaut. Norton had never been able to discover what had happened to the earlier four, and he was equally in the dark about the Church’s rituals and ceremonies. But the main tenet of its faith was well known: it believed that Jesus Christ was a visitor from space, and had constructed an entire theology on that assumption.”
“One of the nicest things about weightlessness, he often thought, was that you could really hold someone all night, without cutting off the circulation.”
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