Thursday, August 13, 2015

Book Review: "2001- A Space Odyssey" by Arthur C. Clarke (Featuring Kathryn)


Science fiction is often described as having three masters in the genre: Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke has often been named the greatest among them all and 2001: A Space Odyssey has been deemed his most notable work. Clarke wrote this novel with noteworthy director Stanley Kubrick, who would go on to direct the film version of this novel. The film was actually released first, but the novel came out soon after, but only credited Clarke. While most individuals know about the film more than they do the book, there is so much that can be taken after reading Clarke's impression on the world around him.

I will be reviewing the book, but since I have been looking to engage in some more collaborations in the form of casual discussions, I will be doing just that for this. Everyone I collaborated with before was from my home state of New Jersey and I have met them in person before collaborating. Today, I am collaborating with someone I met on Booktube. Since launching Literary Gladiators last year, I have had the great pleasure to interact with people from the Booktube community and I have nothing but nice things to say about all of them. One of my favorite channels is one that I was introduced to as On The Read, featuring two intelligent girls named Kathryn and Shannon from Great Britain. They film reviews, book hauls, wrap-ups, and anything else you could think of. This summer, due to conflicting schedules, they had to split the channel and Shannon took over. Nevertheless, it continues to be a great watch!

Today, though, I have one of my favorite people that I met from the Booktube community to talk about 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kathryn, it is a pleasure and an honor to be able to discuss this novel with you today!


Thanks Josh! Your introduction induced a twinge of sadness at my not being an active Booktuber any more - who knows, maybe this discussion will get me inspired again!

It's great to have the opportunity to discuss literature with someone who wants to say more than 'I liked it', and I think 2001 is a perfect novel for digging into the literary depths. It's an honor for me to be featured on Caponomics too, and I hope your readers enjoy what we come up with.


I, too, miss watching you on Booktube and feel a bit of sadness. However, I am sure that you will be back in no time as either a blogger or on a new channel! I hope my followers and others enjoy our discussion and I am sure that I will saying more than "I liked it." I can promise you that!

Would you like to provide us with a brief summary of the novel?


For the readers who haven't come across 2001: A Space Odyssey yet, you will most likely already know this is a sci-fi novel. So, let me get straight into a plot summary.

We start on Earth, but not as we would recognize it today. Post-dinosaur extinction, the beginnings of mankind are going about the process of evolving into the modern homo sapiens. Through Moon-Watcher's eyes (a 'man-ape'), we see a mysterious rectangular object - a monolith - interrupt the monotonous life on Earth.

Fast forward to the age of space exploration, and another mysterious discovery is made - this time on the moon. I certainly don't want to spoil the novel completely for new readers, so I won't reveal too much. What I can say, however, is that the narrative soon jumps to life onboard the spaceship 'Discovery', captained and operated by David Bowman, Frank Poole, and their omnipresent AI companion, Hal, a HAL 9000 computer. Their mission: Saturn.

When unusual, sinister happenings begin to occur onboard 'Discovery', Bowman begins to question the role and motives of the AI that is responsible for the lives of him and his crew, eventually leading him to make discoveries about the universe that no scientist back on Earth could ever have predicted. One of mankind's most pondered questions is brought to the fore: are we alone in the universe?


I really think that Clarke does an outstanding job describing the universe around him, because we have difficulty realizing... or more so just accepting... that all we really are is a grain of substance in a universe that is so greater and, if you are listening to Clarke's argument, more naturalistic. I took an Astronomy class during college and my instructor brought up some interesting points, including humanity making up such a short period of time in the "calendar year of time" and what living organisms really are.

It is just so fitting to begin with life before the Common Era, but after the reign of the dinosaurs. In Primeval Night, the first part of the novel, he comes to the conclusion that it is our "genius" that leads to our extinction. This "road to extinction" featured on the first page begins with the realization that man has the opportunity to advance by taking its resources to use in their favor. This is shown clearest when Moon-Watcher took pride in killing the leopard.

The most fascinating thing about this novel, in my mind, is not necessarily the universal discoveries, but that of human nature and the flaws that make up what is often seen as the greatest creature. It is just so spectacular that man does what he can to inflict his power onto the computer. Little does man know that with all of the good traits that come with a computer that can think for itself come those other traits that make it hungry for power. At the same time, they do not possess the physical incentives that humans desire most.


I totally agree. It can be scary if you truly start to think about the so-called insignificance of humanity and our lifespans in particular. But I have always found it oddly comforting to know that this universe we belong to is capable of so much more; it always has been, and will be, for a length of time that we cannot comprehend. In my reading, I felt that this sentiment is what Clarke was trying to express in 2001. The ending of the novel, and the transcendence of human reality, captures this in a way that truly pushes the reader's imagination.

I actually found Moon-Watcher's delight in the discovery of a carnivorous diet somewhat repulsive! Maybe that is because I personally am vegan, but on a deeper level, it was the discovery of killing that haunted me. When Moon-Watcher realizes his physical power, and sees how he can assert it over the other tribe of man-apes, the social commentary really stands out. Clarke's ability to write on these themes without overtly passing judgment is great; he highlights them enough for the reader to form their own opinions, without authorial intention dominating their interpretation.

Artificial Intelligence is certainly a hot topic at the moment. With some scientists, such as Stephen Hawking, warning that AI has the potential to overtake humanity, it's amazing to reflect upon the fact this novel was first published in 1968. Hal certainly isn't posited as an 'enemy' to begin with; in fact, the respect and friendliness exchanged between human and computer borders on eerie unnaturalness.


There are three more books that make up this series, beginning with one that is set in 2010. Either way, though, I felt there was a statement that was being made with how the novel ended.

I believe the leopard was seen as a resource, which is unfortunate, but it demonstrated that humanity would begin advancing himself into a more carnivorous diet and that it would begin to eliminate its many resources... or the lives in general. Several species of leopards have since been placed on the endangered species list, which is a very eerie prediction made by Clarke through his choice of animal. I am not a vegan, but the idea of hunting to obtain food was painted quite boldly. It is just incredible how this can be traced as the beginning to a species and its pursuit for power and dominance.

Artificial Intelligence is clearly taking over. It starts off as an object of desire, progresses into something so spectacular, and is turning into and will become something that human's will be dependent on. Without it, humanity will be unable to function. The only mode of prevention is to find alternate activities and ways of life without the use of electronics (contradictory given our discussion, but we still engage in non-electronic activities). Back to this story, Hal is meant to serve humanity by engaging in human tasks and thinking like a human. As a servant, computers can overtake humans, because they do not fancy income. On the other hand, if they think like a human and do not need the human resources to function, they can come together with the needs to overtake them and have nothing to lose. It is really creepy!

As for what I thought of this novel, the futuristic world that Arthur C. Clarke puts together is brilliant. I really got a lot out of his commentary on human nature, where he believed human extinction began, and some of the results to a world dominated by Artificial Intelligence. My criticism lies in the basic substance that makes up the novel. I do not feel there is much character development and I only felt the humans were there to serve the purpose as being a species in pursuit of something greater. We know what they are leaving behind, but do not feel a lot of their emotion. I may also sound like a tough customer when I say that I wish Hal got some more time in the book.


I hadn't thought about the leopard in that respect - another example of Clarke's creepy accuracy!

Whilst I had 2001 on the go, I decided to watch the film 'Ex Machina', released just this year, which also focuses on AI's place amongst humans. I was intrigued because of the similar themes with 2001, and although they are obviously very different in terms of plot and characterization, it was interesting to see an up-to-the-minute take on the issues Clarke addressed. As you have pointed out, Josh, our growing dependency on technology is already alarming.

Bowman's courage in the face of pure, open space is admirable, but I would agree that his emotional responses are somewhat limited. He dismisses his own hopes that he is not too far from home as 'childish'; I see this as an instinctual response. After all, the man-apes of the first section of the novel return each night to their cave dwellings, and Clarke has already demonstrated that, relatively speaking in the grand schemes of the universe, the human species has not moved so far from those times. Bowman becomes almost as (supposedly) passive as Hal!

Speaking of Hal, would you have liked to have felt his presence a little more directly in the narrative? Or just to have seen him engage more with the human characters?


I believe that if anything, I would have liked to have seen him engage more with the human characters. I believe we really get a good idea of who he is and how he possesses human traits. One example is that he is programmed to lose fifty percent of the games that he participates, so that his thought-process is a bit more reasonable. Going into the novel, I thought we were going to get a greater idea about how Artificial Intelligence was beginning to dominate humanity. Hal leaves his mark, but I thought he could have been more ferocious with what he wanted and all humanity would be able to blame is themselves. It makes sense that Bowman and Hal held similar emotions of denial, because they were meant to have the same development, but these flaws would allow the rest of this expedition to head forward.

I agree with your idea about instinct. Every animal has a strength and a weakness. For Homo sapiens, we really only pay attention to our strengths. We most certainly have our weaknesses, one of which being our instinctual response and the need to return home. Of course, we have the power to move from point A to point B, but there is this sense of what is "home" planted in our minds and we are willing to do what can be done to ease the pain that comes from distance. Even if it means stretching the truth.

I still felt that 2001: A Space Odyssey was a good book and one that I can recommend. I would rate it 8/10, because it could have been better developed with the dimension of the characters and the impact of Artificial Intelligence, but it excels at presenting what the world may very well become and how it was brought about by the humans themselves. It really does address an area that we tend to think about, but will now really think about after reading.


Hal's reticence was a little unexpected. I thought his 'enthusiasm for the mission' was a little vague as his motivation to mutiny. I too would have liked to see him engage with Bowman and Poole a little more. From what I can remember of Kubrick's version, Hal is more present and developed as a character, and certainly more sinister.

Bowman definitely lets go of his sense of 'home' fairly quickly, which I did not find entirely convincing. Maybe this was inspired by the hopelessness of the situation Clarke placed him in, but I suppose the answer lies with Clarke's authorial intention, which, if my degree in English has taught me anything, we cannot be sure of.

I think I'll be generous and give this novel a 9/10, largely for the fact it really blew me away in terms of the extent to which it made me think about those 'big questions' concerning humanity, the universe, etc. However I'm not well-read in the sci-fi genre, so I can't make comparisons; perhaps relative to other sci-fi novels I might not score this so highly - who knows? All in all though, I did thoroughly enjoy this read, and on a final literary note: Clarke's prose is eerily beautiful, and I found the structure of the novel to be expertly precise and readable. I would definitely recommend.


I suppose that it was Hal's presence in the movie that made me expect him to play a larger role in this novel. It is quite something how we bring authorial intent into the picture, for the authorial intent can be changed at any point in time. Being a writer, I have not even considered confirming certain details, for my intent was to leave it up to the reader to decide. Perhaps Clarke is doing the same here.

I think that I will agree with your final note regarding the beauty and how strangely beautiful Clarke's prose happens to be. This is exactly why he walks away as the legend that he is to science fiction. If you can make it through the many details, you should definitely get something out of this!

Kathryn, I want to thank you once again for taking time to participate in this discussion. I truly enjoy discussing books and literature with you and I really hope that your upcoming year at uni is a good one. I would definitely love to have you back on Caponomics and I really hope you make your way to blogging or back to vlogging as well.


I'm definitely going to re-watch the film just to compare. I may even pick up the next in Clarke's series, just to see where he takes the ideas of 2001.

It really has been fun to talk literature with you Josh, I'm glad you enjoyed it too. I would always be happy to take part in more discussions! I suppose on this occasion we can thank our technology for allowing us to connect and share our thoughts with not only each other, but your readers too. All the best with your Booktube channel and blog.


That is true. We have technology to thank for this spectacular discussion. Thank you so much for your kinds wishes as well!
You can find Kathryn's videos made with Shannon on the channel now known as Shannon Rose Reads. I encourage you to check all of these out, for everything that comes from this channel is so good! : Shannon Rose Reads Channel

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Poem Discussion: Poetry From "Death of a Naturalist" by Seamus Heaney

I have begun to make my way through Opened Ground, which is a collection of Irish Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney's work from 1966 to 1996. Throughout the collection, there is selected poetry from each of his collections up until the time this bigger testament of his best works was released. Opened Ground was assigned for my Irish Literature class, but I felt that either way, I was bound to pick up this collection and begin reading his work. Heaney is just a magnificent poet that reflects on being an Irishman and living a life in rural Ireland. Unlike W.B. Yeats, who wrote years before him, Heaney's work is completely straightforward and not meant to be viewed as Symbolist. There is no complicated decoding that is meant to explore the background of Heaney's time and place nor is there a need for you, the reader, to believe that what is being said is supposed to represent something else. Any kind of word play in Heaney's poetry is intended to be figured out, for it is just Heaney using creative expressions.

Here are five of his poems that stick out the most in his earliest collection, released in 1966.

"Digging"- For some reason, there is a thing with me and the first poem that appears in a collection. It is most certainly not me being lazy and saying that the first thing I read is the very best part of a poetry collection, but it just turns out that way. Perhaps this is a strategy on behalf of poet in order to catch the attention as immediately as possible. "Digging" follows the speaker and how he is writing indoors and remembers his father and grandfather and the yard work in which they engaged. He mentioned how they used spades and how the speaker recalls picking potatoes with his father and carrying milk out to his grandfather. As for his instrument, the speaker uses his pen to "dig up memories." Heaney put a great concentration on making sure that the reader was able to feel the grime that the subjects felt in the poem, emphasizing the "cool hardness in our hands" (L 14), the bottled milk "corked sloppily with paper" (L 20), and "the squelch and slap of soggy peat" (L 25-26) to name a few. We can tell that this speaker does not hold as much experience with manual labor as he possesses "no spade to follow men like them" (L 28), but as time goes by, it almost seems like the escalation of time and circumstances means he is not in a dire need to engage in such labor.

"Death of a Naturalist"- The title poem in this collection is quite amusing, as it pertains to a boy and his fondness of the frogs that exist in his world. As he does so magnificently, Heaney describes the swampy environment to which the frogs inhabit and how he interferes with it, so that he can collect evidence to which he is able to study. He is inspired by what he learns in school about these frogs and what Miss Walls teaches him about them. Ultimately, he returns to some not so happy frogs, "gathered there for vengeance" (L 32). The title of the poem leaves me thinking, because "naturalism" to me describes the indifference that nature has on society. The subject is interfering with the world around him and those that are being affected are angered by this. Perhaps the boy in the poem thinks in a manner that completely opposes the fundamentals of how a Naturalist would think in that he wants to know more than what already is in his grasp. Following the ideas of what Heaney intends, the concept of a boy making his way to a pond full of frogs and examining their habitat is just quite fascinating!

"Churning Day"- I would probably say that if there was a particular poem that caught my attention more than the others in this collection, "Churning Day" would be that poem. When I was younger, I had a fascination with the act of using a churn to make butter and wondered what it was about this that had an impact on the process. I thought that there was something intriguing and as demanding as a designated chore done on a farm. Heaney reminds me otherwise of the gruel that comes with churning butter. He jumps right in by describing the debris left by the churning as "a thick crust, coarse-grained as limestone rough-cast" (L 1) and continues by making comparisons to the product as being processed by "cud and udder" as he refers to the cow (L 4) and how it leaves the house "acrid as a sulphur mine" (L 28). In addition to leaving its mark on the house, the churning of butter leaves everyone with aching arms, blistered hands, and "cheeks and clothes [that] were splattered with flabby milk" (L 15-17). It is incredible to believe that churning butter was just as demanding, if not more demanding, than transporting limestone or manure. Heaney makes a fine argument to this particular case and I surely enjoyed reading about it!

"Follower"- "Follower" is a really heartwarming poem about the cycle of life. Much of the poem follows the subject's father and how he is such a farming expert. The subject, who is a younger boy, is really curious about what his father is doing and wants to be just like him. The father, though, is a genius in his work and it is just about impossible for the boy to figure out what he is doing and how things are done so well. All the boy was able to do was trip, fall, and yap, which almost certainly annoyed his father. As time goes by, though, things start to change. The boy grows up and becomes a man and tends to the farm. The father, who is much older at this point in time, is doing the same thing the boy did. Having tended to the farm for so many years, the father is following along as if he is a "backseat driver," showing that there is bound to be a cycle of irritation when it comes to doing what needs to be done; and while both seem to think they know what they are doing, the idea of the job getting done tends to be the most important obligation that remains at hand.

"Mid-Term Break"- "Mid-Term Break" is a saddening poem about the occurrence of premature death in Ireland. The subject is a boy that is the oldest child, who has lost his younger brother, just four years of age (he has another brother that is just a baby). We do not know this until the end of the poem, though. What we do know, though, is that the boy (who is said to be in college, but needs to rely on a ride from neighbors) is coming home to a wake and is being consoled by older men and saddened parents. As the poem progresses, we learn more and more about him and about the death of his relative. Eventually, we learn that the death was due to a fall that lead to the boy hitting his head and then are assured by the description that he was in "a four-foot box, a foot for every year" (L 22). Premature death, especially death in childhood, is always sad to read about. The way that Heaney writes about it is in the Irish tradition, capturing a segment of an unfortunate, but common part of their lifestyle.

Seamus Heaney really gives us a taste of what it means to be an Irish poet, with examples from multiple backgrounds. I am really curious to know what life is like in other countries and how their lifestyle and their environment reflects their writing. Heaney really does a great job giving me that taste and by being straightforward with what he has to say, there is no need to overthink everything he presents to me as the reader. These five poems explore what it was to grow up in his generation in Ireland and how the work was so grueling. I could feel the sod and the muck that he describes in all of its forms as he talks about their presence in those everyday tasks. Heaney's poetry is so great, because while it may make you think, the only certainty is that it is the content and the imagery that will definitely be taken away from his work. Sometimes the ability to enjoy poetry as if it is a sampling of cheese with a glass of wine is what we need. This is definitely a great place to start!

I will leave a link to the collection that I referred to and encourage you to check out on your own time. This includes Heaney's other works of poetry up until 1996:

Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996 by Seamus Heaney

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Literary Gladiators: Season 3 & Other Updates

For those of you that are following me along on my blog, I ask for your forgiveness. I had the great intent of submitting more posts to my blog, including one that remains incomplete. I plan to complete that particular post and I am also planning a collaborate with a former BookTuber that I greatly admire. As to what I have been doing this last month (and perhaps beyond), I have been working on putting together and launching Literary Gladiators. I am working on the uploading of season three and the filming of season four, which is a task in itself, but I am sure that it is going to work out in the end. We are doing such a good job from where we began and we are certainly reaching for the stars. On July 22nd, we reached 100 subscribers, which is a great milestone after being on YouTube for 17 months and part of the BookTube community for about seven. We are celebrating with a giveaway, which will continue until August 25th (I will leave a link at the bottom of this post). As I write this post, we are up to 119 subscribers and have over 4,700 views, in addition to positive interaction with over 200 likes and just four dislikes, as well as multiple comments. We are still a modest channel, but we are definitely moving forward and doing so quickly.

We are currently uploading the third season of episodes, which include 12 traditional episodes and a roundtable where we discuss the works that inspired us to become literary enthusiasts. In addition, we have taken the liberty to film some extras that take the reflection of many other BookTube channels. We are filming wrap-ups, book hauls, book tags, reviews, and other miscellaneous videos that involve us talking about literature. Some of these videos are individual, while others are group responses to different tags. For instance, we filmed the Would You Rather Book Tag as a group and it turned out being a riot! These more casual episodes that do not take on the traditional format are always a thrill and I look forward to filming more of these. At this point in time, we are generally uploading two videos each week: a traditional episode and an extra. The third season is slated to end on August 21st, so we may have just one or two extras until September 3rd, where we plan to upload our first fourth season episode. We have filmed twenty-six episodes and have fourteen that are still being planned, so we are planning an eventful season that will span into June 2016. We also have a special that should coincide with the Summer Olympics being held in Rio de Janeiro.

As I mention in the 100 Subscribers Giveaway video, the most important part about being a member of the BookTube community is that you connect with your fellow members and get something out of the experience. We can have far more than 119 subscribers, but it would mean nothing if it meant we could not connect with them. BookTube is such a great community and they are some of the nicest, enthusiastic, and most encouraging bunch I have ever come across. It is just surreal that we could live in different cities, different states, different countries, and be brought together by a love for books and reading. THAT is the magic of BookTube! We definitely plan to connect much more with the community and some of my fellow participants have expressed interest in filming extras of their own. I will be sharing one such example, where Kelsea responded to me tagging her in the Minimalist Book Tag, where I was tagged by its creator, Shannon from Shannon Rose Reads.

I will leave links below to all of our season three episodes and to some of our extras. I hope you enjoy these and I promise that I will have some new written content up before you know it!

Season 3 Episodes Thus Far

Episode 30- "A Narrative of the Captivity & Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson by Mary Rowlandson
Episode 31- "The Stranger" by Albert Camus
Episode 32- "My Dog Tulip" by J.R. Ackerley
Episode 33- "A Sound of Thunder" by Ray Bradbury
Episode 34- "Rubyfruit Jungle" by Rita Mae Brown
Episode 35- "Wit & Wisdom From Poor Richard's Almanac" by Benjamin Franklin
Works That Inspired Us To Become Literary Enthusiasts
Episode 36- Shakespeare's Sonnets
Episode 37- "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth
Episode 38- "Watchmen" by Alan Moore

Some of our Extras

Would You Rather Book Tag- Part 1 (Questions 1-6)
Would You Rather Book Tag- Part 2 (Questions 7-10)
Josh's Cheese Book Tag (Original)
Josh's Barnes & Noble Book Haul July 2015 (ft. Minnie)
Josh's Minimalist Book Tag
Kelsea's Minimalist Book Tag

100 Subscriber Giveaway (Active Until August 25, 2015)