3001: The Final Odyssey

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3001: The Final Odyssey
First UK edition
Author Arthur C. Clarke
Cover artist Chris Moore
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Science fiction novel
Publisher Voyager Books (UK)
Del Rey Books (US)
Publication date
ISBN ISBN 0-345-31522-7 (US hardback edition)
OCLC 35919386
823/.914 21
LC Class PR6005.L36 A618 1997
Preceded by 2061: Odyssey Three

3001: The Final Odyssey (1997) is a science fiction novel by Sir Arthur C. Clarke. It is the fourth and final book in Clarke's Space Odyssey series.

Plot summary[edit]

This novel begins with a brief prologue describing the aliens who created the black monoliths. They apparently evolved from "primordial soup", and over the course of millions of years, turned into a space-faring species. As they explored the Universe, they saw that few intelligent species ever successfully evolved. Therefore, they travelled the universe and catalysed the evolution of intelligent species wherever they went, including Earth, by increasing the evolving species' odds of survival. Upon reaching Earth, they performed experiments on many species to encourage the development of intelligence. Then they left, leaving their black monoliths behind. After visiting the Earth, the extraterrestrials continued to evolve, eventually to the point where they found a way to impress themselves into the fabric of space and time, thus becoming noncorporeal beings. Meanwhile, back in the Solar system, the alien monoliths continued to watch over humanity. However, sometimes the monoliths were prone to degenerating and acting independently of their original programming.

3001 follows the adventures of Frank Poole, the astronaut who was killed by the HAL-9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey by tearing his spacesuit open and casting him on a trajectory into deep space. One thousand years later, Poole's freeze-dried body is discovered out in the Kuiper belt beyond the orbit of Neptune by a human spaceship, a comet-collecting space tug named the Goliath. The advanced medical science and technology of that age is able to bring Poole back to life. Being freeze-dried and then kept near absolute zero for the intervening centuries preserved Poole's body and brain well enough for him to make a full recovery.

Poole is next taken home to explore and learn about the Earth in the year 3001, a millennium after he left it. Some of its notable features include the BrainCap, a brain-computer interface technology that connects a computer directly to the human brain, genetically engineered dinosaur servants, a space drive, and four gigantic space elevators spaced evenly around the Equator. Human beings have also colonised the Jovian moons Ganymede and Callisto.

During the 26th century, the remains of an alien monolith had been found in the Olduvai Gorge in East Africa (the one that had kickstarted human evolution). It's said that TMA-1, the black monolith that had been found on the Moon in 1999, was brought to Earth in 2006 and then installed in front of the United Nations Building in New York City.

In the course of the novel, it is determined that following the events of 2010: Odyssey Two and 2061: Odyssey Three the Jovian monolith had sent a report back to its makers some 450 light years away. It is expected to receive its orders on how to deal with humanity after the 900-year round-trip. Presumably, the monolith was empowered to obliterate the nascent biosphere of Jupiter, but it needed a higher authority's approval to obliterate the technological civilisation on Earth. There is considerable worry that the judgment, which was based on the monolith's observations of humanity up to 2061, will be negative. The entire human race, then, may be in danger of being obliterated by the aliens, just as the Jovian life-forms discovered by David Bowman were deliberately destroyed in the course of making Jupiter into a second sun so the Europans could evolve. Frank manages to conscript Bowman and HAL, who had fused into a new entity — Halman — and now reside in the monolith's computational matrix, to infect the monolith with a computer virus retrieved from Pico vault, a special containment facility on the moon used to house various chemical, biological, and cybernetic weapons in an attempt to avert a potential apocalypse.

Just as the humans feared, the monolith does indeed receive orders to exterminate humankind, and it begins to duplicate itself many hundreds of millions of times over. These millions of monoliths assemble themselves into two separate screens in front of the Sun to prevent all light and heat from reaching the Earth and its colonies. The intent is to shut down the entire terrestrial biosphere. However, Halman had already infected the monolith with the virus at the time it began duplicating itself, and fifteen minutes after the screens are formed, all the monoliths disintegrate, including TMA-0 and TMA-1.

Halman manages to upload its combined personalities into a petabyte-capacity holographic 3D storage medium and thus survives the disintegration of the monoliths. However, that medium is infected with the virus in the process and is subsequently sealed by human scientists in Pico Vault, where it will presumably be stored until such time as humans (or others) choose to disinfect and revive it.

At the close of the story, Poole and the other humans land on Europa and attempt to start peaceful relations with the primitive native Europans.

Apparently, the creators of the Monoliths – having long since evolved into a noncorporeal and godlike state of existence – had been watching humanity. They decide to grant the human race a reprieve, and that they will not determine humanity's fate until "the Last Days".

Differences between 3001: The Final Odyssey and earlier books[edit]

This portrayal of the monoliths is different from that in the earlier novels. In particular, the 2001 monolith was capable of faster-than-light transmission, and was generally portrayed as both less malevolent and more of a thinking entity than the one seen in this novel (in particular, Dave Bowman's transcendence as a star child is now explained as a mundane case of being uploaded onto a computer).

In 2010, an apparition of Bowman appeared before Floyd (shaping itself from dust), warning that the Leonov's crew must leave Jupiter within 15 days. Floyd had difficulty convincing the rest of the crew, which would have been much easier had he been in possession of the video recording of the incident shown to Poole by Dr. Allister Kim in 3001.

The very end of 2010, titled simply "20,001", could not have happened as portrayed because of the disappearance of the monoliths at the end of 3001.

The story features a ring-shaped habitat in geostationary orbit around Earth, connected by four "towers" (space elevators) equally spaced around the equator. In the epilogue of 2061: Odyssey Three however, the ring-shaped habitat reportedly has six "towers" instead of four.

Additionally, some of the dates are changed. The USSR is acknowledged as having collapsed in 1991, whereas in the earlier three books it lasts well into the 21st century. Frank Poole's birth date is set at 1996; the Discovery mission is pushed forward to the 2030s and the Leonov mission to the 2040s, when in the earlier three books, they were in 2001 and 2010, respectively. Finally, Poole remarks that by the 2020s his world had learned to tap unlimited vacuum energy, when the previous books had established only cold fusion as the highest source of power by 2061; vacuum energy would have made the plasma drive and fission reactor on the original Discovery obsolete a decade prior to the ship's construction (under the new 3001 dates).

However, Clarke consistently stated that each of the Odyssey novels takes place in its own separate parallel universe[1] — this is demonstrated by the facts that the monoliths are still in existence at the end of 2010: Odyssey Two and that Floyd is no longer part of the trinity formed at the end of 2061: Odyssey Three. These parallel universes are a part of Clarke's retroactive continuity.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations[edit]

It was reported on Yahoo Entertainment in 2000 that MGM and actor/director Tom Hanks were in discussions regarding turning both 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey into movies. (Hanks would reportedly play Frank Poole in the 3001 film.) An update in 2001 stated that there was no further development on the project.[2]


  1. ^ Clarke, Arthur C. (1997). "Author's Note". 2061 Odyssey Three. HarperCollinsPublishers. p. [page needed]. ISBN 0-586-20319-2. 
  2. ^ Greg Dean Schmitz. "3001: The Final Odyssey – Greg's Preview – Yahoo! Movies". Archived from the original on 27 June 2007. Retrieved 13 May 2008. 
  • Clarke, Arthur C. (1997). "Valediction". In Del Rey. 3001: The Final Odyssey. Random House Publishing Group. p. 272. ISBN 0-345-42349-6.