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3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke


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

The book begins with a brief prologue describing 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 monoliths 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 Kuiper 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, a space drive, 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 Gorge, 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 Building in New York City.
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 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 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, 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 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".[wikipedia]

Language: English