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RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA (Anglais) Poche – 12 août 1974

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--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Poche.

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Sooner or later, it was bound to happen. On June 30, 1908, Moscow escaped destruction by three hours and four thousand kilometers--a margin invisibly small by the Stan•dards of the universe. On February 12, 1947, another Russian city had a still narrower escape, when the second great meteorite of the twentieth century detonated less than four hundred kilometers from Vladivostok, with an explosion rivaling that of the newly invented uranium bomb.

In those days there was nothing that men could do to protect themselves against the last random shots in the cosmic bombardment that had once scarred the face of the Moon. The meteorites of 1908 and 1947 had struck uninhabited wilderness; but by the end of the twenty-first century there was no region left on Earth that could be safely used for celestial target practice. The human race had spread from pole to pole. And so, inevitably

At 0946 GMT on the morning of September 11 in the exceptionally beautiful summer of the year 2077, most of the inhabitants of Europe saw a dazzling fireball appear in the eastern sky. Within seconds it was brighter than the Sun, and as it moved across the heavens-at first in utter silence-it left behind it a churning column of dust and smoke.

Somewhere above Austria it began to disintegrate, producing a series of concussions so violent that more than a million people had their hearing permanently damaged. They were the lucky ones.

Moving at fifty kilometers a second, a thousand tons of rock and metal impacted on the plains of northern Italy, destroying in a few flaming moments the labor of centuries. The cities of Padua and Verona were wiped from the face of the Earth; and the last glories of Venice sank forever beneath the sea as the waters of the Adriatic came thundering landward after the hammer blow from space.

Six hundred thousand people died, and the total damage was more than a trillion dollars. But the loss to art, to history, to science-to the whole human race, for the rest of time-was beyond all computation. It was as if a great war had been fought and lost in a single morning; and few could draw much pleasure from the fact that, as the dust of destruction slowly settled, for months the whole world witnessed the most splendid dawns and sunsets since Krakatoa.

After the initial shock, mankind reacted with a determination and a unity that no earlier age could have shown. Such a disaster, it was realized, might not occur again for a thousand years-but it might occur tomorrow. And the next time, the consequences could be even worse.

Very well; there would be no next time.

A hundred years earlier, a much poorer world, with far feebler resources, had squandered its wealth attempting to destroy weapons launched, suicidally, by mankind against itself. The effort had never been successful, but the skills acquired then had not been forgotten. Now they could be used for a far nobler purpose, and on an infinitely vaster stage. No meteorite large enough to cause catastrophe would ever again be allowed to breach the defenses of Earth.

So began Project Spaceguard. Fifty years later-and in a way that none of its designers could ever have anticipated -it justified its existence.


By the year 2130, the Mars-based radars were discovering new asteroids at the rate of a dozen a day. The Spaceguard computers automatically calculated their orbits and stored the
information in their own enormous memories, so that every few months any interested
astronomer could have a look at the accumulated statistics. These were now quite impressive.

It had taken more than 120 years to collect the first thousand asteroids, since the discovery of Ceres, largest of these tiny worlds, on the very first day of the nineteenth century. Hundreds had been found and lost and found again; they existed in such swarms that one exasperated astronomer had christened them "vermin of the skies." He would have been appalled to know that Spaceguard was now keeping track of half a million.

Only the five giants-Ceres, Pallas, Juno, Eunomia, and Vesta-were more than two hundred kilometers in diameter; the vast majority were merely oversized boulders that would fit into a small park. Almost all moved in orbits that lay beyond Mars. Only the few that came far enough sunward to be a possible danger to Earth were the concern of Spaceguard. And not one in a thousand of these, during the entire future history of the solar system, would pass within a million kilometers of Earth.

The object first catalogued as 31/439, according to the year and the order of its discovery, was detected while it was still outside the orbit of Jupiter. There was nothing unusual about its location; many asteroids went beyond Saturn before turning once more toward their distant master, the Sun. And Thule II, most far-ranging of all, traveled so close to Uranus that it might
well be a lost moon of that planet.

But a first radar contact at such a distance was unprecedented; clearly, 31/439 must be of
exceptional size. From the strength of the echo, the computers deduced a diameter of at least
forty kilometers. Such a giant had not been discovered for a hundred years. That it had been
overlooked for so long seemed incredible.

Then the orbit was calculated, and the mystery was resolved-to be replaced by a greater one.
31/439 was not traveling on a normal asteroidal path, along an ellipse which it retraced with clockwork precision every few years. It was a lonely wanderer among the stars, making its first and last visit to the solar system-for it was moving so swiftly that the gravitational field of the Sun could never capture it. It would flash inward past the orbits of Jupiter, Mars, Earth, Venus, and Mercury, gaining speed as it did so, until it rounded the Sun and headed out once again into the unknown.

It was at this point that the computers started flashing their "We have something interesting" sign, and, for the first time, 31/439 came to the attention of human beings. There was a brief flurry of excitement at Spaceguard headquarters, and the interstellar vagabond was quickly dignified by a name instead of a mere number. Long ago, the astronomers had exhausted Greek and Roman mythology; now they were working through the Hindu pantheon. And so 31/439 was christened Rama.

For a few days, the news media made a fuss over the visitor, but they were badly handicapped by the sparsity of information. Only two facts were known about Rama: its unusual orbit and its approximate size. Even this last was merely an educated guess, based upon the strength of the radar echo. Through the telescope, Rama still appeared as a faint, fifteenth-magnitude star-much too small to show a visible disc. But as it plunged in toward the heart of the solar system, it would grow brighter and larger month by month; before it vanished forever, the orbiting observatories would be able to gather more precise information about its shape and size. There was plenty of time, and perhaps during the next few years some spaceship on its ordinary business might be routed close enough to get good photographs. An actual rendezvous was most unlikely; the energy cost would be far too great to permit physical contact with an object cutting across the orbits of the planets at more than a hundred thousand kilometers an hour.

So the world soon forgot about Rama. But the astronomers did not. Their excitement grew with the passing months as the new asteroid presented them with more and more puzzles.

First of all, there was the problem of Rama's light curve. It didn't have one.

All known asteroids, without exception, showed a slow variation in their brilliance, waxing and waning in a period of a few hours. It had been recognized for more than two centuries that this was an inevitable result of their spin and their irregular shape. As they toppled end over end along their orbits, the reflecting surfaces they presented to the sun were continually changing, and their brightness varied accordingly.

Rama showed no such changes. Either it was not spinning at all or it was perfectly symmetrical. Both explanations seemed unlikely.

There the matter rested for several months, because none of the big orbiting telescopes could be spared from their regular job of peering into the remote depths of the universe. Space astronomy was an expensive hobby, and time on a large instrument could easily cost a thousand dollars a minute. Dr. William Stenton would never have been able to grab the Farside two-hundred-meter reflector for a full quarter of an hour if a more important program had not been temporarily derailed by the failure of a fifty-cent capacitor. One astronomer's bad luck was his good fortune

Stenton did not know what he had caught until the next day, when he was able to get computer time to process his results. Even when they were finally flashed on his display screen, it took him several minutes to understand what they meant

The sunlight reflected from Rama was not, after all, absolutely constant in its intensity. There was a very small variation-hard to detect, but quite unmistakable, and extremely regular. Like all the other asteroids, Raina was indeed spinning. But whereas the normal "day" for an asteroid was several hours, Rama's was only four minutes.

Stenton did some quick calculations, and found it hard to believe the results. At its equator, this tiny world must be spinning at more than a thousand kilometers an hour. It would be rather unhealthy to attempt a landing anywhere except at the poles, because the centrifugal force at the equator would be powerful enough to flick any loose objects away from it at an acceleration of almost one gravity. ltama was a roiling stone that could never have gathered any cosmic moss. It was surprising that such a body had managed to hold itself together, and had not long ago shattered into a million fragments.

An object forty kilometers across, with a rotation period of only four minutes-where did that fit into the astronomical scheme of things? Dr. Stenton was a somewhat imaginative man, a little too prone to jump to conclusions. He now jumped to one that gave him an uncomfortable few minutes indeed:

The only specimen of the celestial zoo that fitted this description was a collapsed star. Perhaps Rama was a dead sun, a madly spinning sphere of neutronium, every cubic centimeter weighing billions of tons.

At this point, there flashed briefly through Stenton's horrified mind the memory of that timeless classic, H. 0. Wells's "The Star." He had first read it as a small boy, and it had helped to spark his interest in astronomy. Across more than two centuries of time it had lost none of its magic and its tenor. He would never forget the images of hurricanes and' tidal waves, of cities sliding into the sea, as that other visitor from the stars smashed into Jupiter and then fell sunward past the Earth. True, the star that old Wells described was not cold, but incandescent, and wrought much of its destruction by heat. That scarcely mattered; even if Rama was a cold body, reflecting only the light of the Sun, it could kill by gravity as easily as by fire.

Any stellar mass intruding into the solar system would completely distort the orbits of the planets. The Earth had only to move a few million kilometers sunward-.or starward-for the
delicate balance of climate to be destroyed. The antarctic icecap could melt and flood all low-lying land; or the oceans could freeze and the whole world be locked in eternal winter. Just a nudge in either direction would be enough.

Then Stenton relaxed and breathed a sigh of relief. This was all nonsense; he should be ashamed of himself.

Rama could not possibly be made of condensed matter. No star-sized mass could penetrate so deeply into the solar system without producing disturbances that would have betrayed it long ago. The orbits of all the planets would have been affected; that, after all, was how Neptune, Pluto, and Persephone had been discovered. No, it was utterly impossible for an object as massive as a dead sun to sneak up unobserved.

In a way, it was a pity. An encounter with a dark star would have been quite exciting.

While it lasted. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Poche .

Revue de presse

"Mr. Clarke is splendid...We experience that chilling touch of the alien, the not-quite-knowable, that distinguishes SF at its most technically imaginative." -- The New York Times --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Poche .

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Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) est l'un des plus grands écrivains de science-fiction de l'histoire avec H.G. Wells et Isaac Asimov. Il a livré d'innombrables classiques et des chefs-d'oeuvre tels que le célèbre 2001 : l'odyssée de l'espace ou encore le cycle de Rama. Son oeuvre visionnaire et humaniste a influencé d'autres grands auteurs comme Stephen Baxter. Né en 1957, ce dernier est l'un des chefs de file de la SF contemporaine, avec plus de trente romans à succès, dont Voyage et Les Vaisseaux du temps.

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175 internautes sur 182 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An old friend, and still a great read 19 septembre 2003
Par John S. Ryan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
In my youth, when I started reading SF, I was never a major devotee of Arthur C. Clarke; I was mostly into Heinlein and Asimov. But I read this one when it was first published (1973) and I liked it so well I kept the hardback for years and years.
I'm not sure what finally happened to it, but at any rate I've just recently gotten around to replacing it. And the story is still as great a read as it was when it was new. I can't claim to have read everything Clarke ever wrote, but this is certainly the best of his works that I _have_ read.
Other reviewers have pointed out, entirely correctly, that this isn't a book to read for character development. That's true of Clarke's books in general, I think, but it's especially apt here, where the 'star' of the book is an artifact of an alien civilization. In fact, even the 'star' doesn't get a lot of development, since in the end it remains deeply mysterious. (I don't know what happens in the sequels; I haven't read them and I haven't heard good things about them. I'm treating this as a standalone work.)
But man, if you want to read a gripping, haunting story about the first human exploration of a space probe (or something) from an extraterrestrial civilization -- and if you want to watch the exploration process unfold and feel as though you're participating in the discovery yourself -- then this is a book for you. This is what Clarke does best: when you read a story through his eyes, you're looking outward at the objects of scientific investigation, and helping yourself to a chunk of the intellectual wonder and joy that goes with such investigation.
The excitement here is the excitement of hard science, not of character development. If that's what you want, you'll probably love this book.
59 internautes sur 63 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The greatest mystery 18 avril 2008
Par Thomas Wikman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
Briefly; a very large cylinder appears in our solar system and an expedition is sent out to investigate what obviously is an extraterrestrial object. They are able to enter the cylinder and watch it slowly "wake up" from the inside. The alien technology they encounter is highly advanced and awe inspiring but still possible to understand.

The story develops in a fairly slow pace, but it is full of suspense and mystery. The discoveries that the astronauts make are so fantastic and described with such lucid imagination that all I could feel while reading this book was anticipation and awe. Furthermore, the more the astronauts explore and discover the deeper the mysteries seem to grow. One thing I really like about Arthur C. Clarke is that his descriptions are scientifically plausible and still very imaginative. I highly recommend this Sci-Fi novel.

Arthur C. Clarke is my favorite Science Fiction author and Rendezvous with Rama is one of my favorites. It was a collection of short stories that included my all time favorite short story "The wall of darkness" that originally got me hooked on Arthur C. Clarke (review coming). Arthur C. Clarke will never be forgotten.
20 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Wonderful, Thoughtful, Provocative 15 janvier 2000
Par UtterMWest@aol.com - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
A mysterious object dubbed Rama is found entering the Solar System. A team of cosmonauts set out to intercept the craft, only to discover an environment so alien yet strangely human that debates over the purpose the craft become wildly out of control. Perhaps one of Clarke's best writings, he focuses on mankind's eventual transcendence, a second coming, a return to the garden of Eden, and human nature. He believes that human nature is fundamentally good, yet as humans, we have to overcome prejudices to survive. Not only does this book make one think about mankind's role in the universe and if there are intelligent speices out there, it also evokes fantastic imagery. Imagine gigantic bio-metallic crab creatures, a sea that curves overhead, and a waterfall that moves in a spiral. This book is a great read.
51 internautes sur 61 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
No region on Earth left for safe celestial target practice 28 juillet 2008
Par H. Schneider - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche Achat vérifié
First of all: thanks to the Scandinavian parts of Texas for pointing me to A.Clarke, whom I had previously known only on a 'no name basis' as the writer of 2001 Space Odyssey. I have high respect and liking for the SF genre, but not much knowledge of it, apart from one or the other Verne, Wells, Samjatin, Huxley, Orwell, Bradbury, Asimov, Lem... Of course not counting Douglas Adams, who played another ball game, didn't he?
Rama is a worth while experience. Good Science Fiction is usually also about 'science', but if it is good, it is much about society, about history, usually in the future. The evil cliche term of the paradigm comes to practical use when you read good SF. (The word was invented by evil consultants who needed excuses for the havoc they caused.) SF is about changing paradigms. There is lots of that going on here.
In the 22nd century, the United Planets, which seem to be essentially Earth, Mercury and Mars (which are Earthling colonies) plus some moons are confronted with a scary phenomenon: a huge artificial space body travelling with high speed near the Earth. Luckily the initially silly Star Wars technology had later been developed to the advantage of peaceful purposes and helps arranging a 'rendezvous' with the alien craft, named Rama because the Roman and Greek mythologies have been exhausted in the process of naming space. The process of exploring the strange space body and of thinking through its implications is the actual plot.
Go for it!
11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Rings very true 7 janvier 2001
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Poche
While I agree with some of the other reviewers' criticisms here that characterizations here tend to be a bit flat, the human characters simply were not the point of this great novel - RAMA itself was the main character. ACC does a great job of fleshing out Rama so we can really envision it and believe it is real. A great novel (or movie) takes you somewhere you have never been before (that is, its not just a retread of familiar plots and characters). Rendezvous with Rama did that for me. I don't simply mean that it's a novel about contact with an extraterrestrial force - that's been done zillions of times. But rather, this one does it in an extremely compelling and believable manner. I found this to be one of those novels that I had to read virtually all at once because I couldn't wait to see what happened next. Except for the fact that NASA doesn't have the financial resources that the earth folks in this novel do, this book could happen today. No ACC has not tied everything up in a nice neat package - real life seldom does. I don't want to give away the ending - but I love the ending of this book. It puts our civilization in proper perspective, again seems very credible, and was a rather new idea back in the early 70's when this was written. In fact, my least favorite thing about the sequels, particularly the final one in the series, is that they trounce upon the spirit of the original ending. [For those readers who do want more character depth, the first sequel (Rama II) is perhaps the best in retaining the spirit of the original while providing truly fleshed out characters. I presume the latter was attributable to Gentry Lee, rather than ACC.]
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