2001’s Opening, millions of years ago

Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey has been invariably read since its publication as a companion piece or even, horror of horrors, a novelization of the like-named film. It is impossible to separate the two since they were created in tandem, with the film being released a few months before the book.

I don’t like reading books with a film version in mind. It casts all the parts for you so you can never see a character without recalling an actor’s face. In some rare instances the film surpasses the book in quality (The Godfather being the most common example) and so there is always this bitter rivalry between book and film. Which is better? Which is more true to the story?

In the novel 2001, we get an identical open. A humanid struggles with starvation in the antediluvian barren. What I found interesting on reading this opening passage was how the mystery and drama of Kubrick’s Dawn of Man, which has a balance of minimalism and biblical drama that wouldn’t be matched in literary form until McCarthy wrote Blood Meridian. The book lacks this ancient and gnostic presence. It comes across far more sci-fi and not enough, in a word, cataclysmic.  

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