A lot of people will be talking about the obvious film/book. The film and book versions of 2001 are different, in the book the monolith is on Iapetus, the moon of Saturn where liquid water may exist. Arthur C. Clarke changed his mind for the sequel, and decided that Jupiter was the better place for the sequel 2010, which is far better than any sequel to 2001 has the right to be. I haven’t bought the DVD yet, but I will eventually. A direct comparison between the two is perhaps not fair as they’re two different films and stories. As great as 2001 is, it is umm… cinematic in scope. It’s a story of billions of years. 2010 is much more personal.
The plot is the quest to find out what happened after Dave Bowman left the Discovery for the last time. All the people on Earth have to go on is the message: “My God! It’s full of stars!” The Americans are building Discovery II travel there. In the meantime Russians have built their own ship, the Leonov, to examine Jupiter and board Discovery as a derelict. This happens against a background of Cold War tension (one magazine said that this dated the film). An analysis of Discovery’s orbit shows that it will crash onto Io before the American ship can reach it. The Russians offer to take three American astronauts with them on the Leonov, so that they can try and avoid whatever happened to the Discovery’s crew repeating itself.
The Americans are put into hibernation for the trip, but as they sleep US-Russian relations deteriorate further. The Russians discover unusual readings from Europa and reluctantly awake Heywood Floyd. They agree they haven’t the fuel to make a diversion, they’ll be relying on scraping over Jupiter’s atmosphere to act as a brake to slow them down. Instead they launch a probe…
2010 is among other things a ghost story, the adversary is unknown and possibly unknowable. It shows off what Arthur C Clarke could do. The scene above was based on published speculation about Europa at the time. The result is that the scene isn’t too far off how scientists would describe Europa today. However the point of 2010 isn’t to be a lecture in astrobiology, it’s about human interaction. Unseen alien presence poses a challenge which means the crews of the Discovery and the Leonov have to overcome both their fear of the unknown and of each other to leave the Jovian system alive. Technology is important in the story, but its role is placing limitations on what is feasible rather than a means of escaping limitations.
Arthur C. Clarke understood the limitations of technology and that’s what makes 2010 a far better story than you’d expect. His death will be a great loss.