The introduction to this novel written by (and in the audiobook, performed by) Arthur C Clarke is probably the best part of the whole thing. In it, Clarke explains the curious decision to write the novel concentrically with the screenplay and how the novel was a choice based on how little explanation (outside of the visual elements) the screenplay would be able to explain. The movie, if you’ve seen it, is an absolute masterpiece in visual (and audio) language telling so much of the story, the character motivations, and the tone and voice through various visual moments. The scene of HAL ominously reading the lips of the space station inhabitants alone is so amazingly rich. Even the weird fourth act material as Dave crosses over into the alien stuff on Jupiter and the Star Baby and all that makes a lot more sense through a kind of trippy lens than a purely explanatory one.
The biggest crime of the novel is definitely the narration of the proto-human sections which are already a little much in the movie, but add a near-cringeworthy amount of schmaltz to the novel.
Like I said, the novel as an exercise in filmmaking is interesting, and while it’s not a novelization like other books, it’s an odd thing to read given both the way the movie tells stories and given how much better so many of Clarke’s other novels are, including his upcoming Rendezvous with Rama. I am more curious about the later novels in the series, removed as they are from the context of the first film (although I have seen 2010, and it’s also a good, if very different movie).