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

Plot summary

The book begins with a brief prologue. The prologue describes the aliens who created the Monoliths. They apparently evolved from "warm slime", and over the course of millions of years, turned into a space faring species. As they explored the galaxy, they saw that few intelligent species ever successfully evolved. Therefore, they traveled the universe and catalyzed 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 the monolith behind. After visiting Earth, the aliens continued to evolve, to the point where they eventually found a way to integrate themselves into the fabric of space, and became non-corporeal beings. Meanwhile, back in the Solar system, the Monoliths continued to watch over humanity. However, the Monoliths were capable of degenerating and acting independently of their original programming.

3001 follows the adventures of Frank Poole, an astronaut who was deliberately killed by HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey by casting him out into space. His body is discovered in the Kuyper belt, beyond the orbit of Neptune, by the comet-collecting space tug Goliath, after drifting in space for a millennium, and brought back to life, deep-freezing to near absolute zero having preserved him sufficiently for the advanced medical technology of the time to be able to revive him. He then explores the Earth of 3001, notable features of which are the BrainCap, a technology which interfaces computers directly with the human brain, genetically engineered dinosaur servants, and four huge space elevators spaced around the Earth's Equator connected by a spaceport ring in geostationary orbit. Humanity has also colonized Jupiter's moons Ganymede and Callisto.

In the 26th century, the monolith in Olduvai Gorgemarker, Africa (dubbed TMA-0) that kickstarted human intellectual evolution, has been discovered. TMA-1, the monolith found on the moon, had earlier been brought to Earth in 2006 and erected in front of the United Nations Buildingmarker in New York Citymarker.

In the course of the novel, it is determined that following the events of 2010: Odyssey Two the Jupiter monolith sent a report back to its "superior" 450 light years away and is about to receive its orders on how to deal with humanity (since the report would take 450 years to reach the superior, and the orders 450 years to come back). Presumably, the monolith was empowered to obliterate the nascent biosphere of Jupiter but needed a higher authority's approval to obliterate the technological civilization on Earth. There is considerable worry that the judgment, which was based on the monolith's observations of humanity up to 2001, 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 — Lucifer — so the Europa 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 Picomarker 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 mankind, 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 Sol and Lucifer to prevent all vital light and heat from reaching Earth and its colonies. The intent is to shut down the entire Terran biological life-cycle. 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, it itself is infected with the virus in the process and is subsequently sealed by human scientists within 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 non-corporeal and god-like state of existence - had been watching humanity. They decide to grant the human race a reprieve, and that they should not determine humanity's fate until "the Last Days".

Differences between 3001: The Final Odyssey and earlier books

This portrayal of the monoliths is notably 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 into a computer).

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

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

Additionally, some of the dates are changed. The USSRmarker is acknowledged as having crumbled 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 has consistently stated that each of the Odyssey novels takes place in their own separate parallel universe — this is demonstrated by the facts that the monoliths are still in existence in the year 20,001 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

It was reported on Yahoo Entertainment in 2000 that MGM was in discussions regarding turning 3001 The Final Odyssey into a movie. An update in 2001 states that there has been no further development on the project.

Similarities with other works of Clarke

  • The story features a ring-shaped habitat in geostationary orbit around Earth, connected by four "towers" (space elevators) equally spaced around the equator. This sort of habitat first appeared in Clarke's work at the end of The Fountains of Paradise.


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