70 years after the events of Rendezvous with Rama, a second Raman vessel enters our solar system. Its arrival is expected and an expedition is sent to unlock more of Rama’s mysteries, but the crew are unprepared both for what they find and for the conflicts that arise between them. Rama II brings new characters into a new story and is mostly unrelated to the original and largely serves to set up its own sequels. It ends with three of the twelve astronauts stranded inside Rama as it travels out of the solar system, Nicole des Jardins Wakefield, Richard Wakefield and Michael O’Toole.
Unlike Rendezvous with Rama, which depicted a utopian future and focused almost entirely on the hard science fiction elements regarding the scientific wonders of the alien spacecraft, Rama II and its sequels deconstruct Clarke’s vision of human colonies throughout the solar system through a global economic crisis that forced their almost total deactivation. Then follows a very different storytelling that brings forward contemporary issues like abortion, racism, drug abuse and organized crime.
In 1973, Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama won the Hugo, Nebula and Campbell awards. This new novel is the second in a trilogy about the mystifying world-ships and their flybys of our solar system. Unfortunately, the focus is no longer on alien mysteries, but on the petty concerns of an unlikely assortment of cosmonauts. The 12 specialists chosen to explore a second Raman craft passing through human space 70 years after the first are more involved with adultery, religion and media contracts than they are with scientific advancement. Not only are their actions unrealistic, but the chapter titles telegraph what comes next. The excitement of discovery that was present in the first book is altogether missing from this soap opera plot.