This one didn’t work out for me so much. And it tricked me! I was really into it for like the first twenty pages (hard not to pay attention when a giant asteroid pulverizes Italy), but once the crew of the Endeavor were introduced, this book became pretty dull for me.
Rendezvous with Rama, which is a Hugo award winner, was published in 1973. I can see how something like this published fifty years ago would have been a big deal. But there are just so many better stories these days that not only have cool science and weird situations (which is what this book has going for it) but also have characters and emotions as well. Not to mention, I personally found the ending to this book incredibly anti-climactic.
I’m about to spoil a forty-eight year old book, so don’t read further if you don’t want to know what happens.
Rama appears in the solar system and causes immediate consternation. There is only one ship that can intercept it. When they arrive, the find an empty, enormous vessel that appears to be some sort of generation ship but an empty one, and barren. Paradoxically, the vessel has to be at least several hundred thousand years old, but everything inside it seems brand new. It’s so large that it generates its own gravity. The entire rest of the book just involves the crew making tentative explorations into the strange vessel. In theory, this sounds kind of neat, but in practice I found myself losing interest. They never find any sign of alien life, just the machine the life created. They never find out why the ship is there, where it came from, or where it’s going. The spectacle of the vessel is impressive, but the crew of the Endeavor are barely characters.
There’s also some icky sexist stuff regarding the captain of the Endeavor and women. He outright states some women shouldn’t go to space because he likes their boobs too much. Also, he has two wives (which in of itself, who cares) but he doesn’t think of them or treat them like equal partners. He’s gross. On a positive note, I think there was some queer polyamory in here, which I thought was neat if it was there, because that was waaaay ahead of its time.