As Floyd and his colleagues pose in front of the object for a photograph, the sun rises over it and it emits a "a piercing electronic shriek, like a hideously overloaded and distorted time signal." This signal is picked up by space-probes heading out into the solar system...

Between the Planets

The novel then jumps eighteen months into the future, to the first manned mission to Saturn. [The destination in the film is Jupiter, subtitled 'Jupiter Mission - 18 Months Later']. The space-craft Discovery is commanded by astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole. To conserve resources, the scientific survey team of Hunter, Kaminski and Whitehead have been placed aboard in a state of hibernation - ready to be awakened when the destination is reached. The sixth member of the crew is an apparently sentient super-computer HAL 9000. Hal (short for Heuristically programmed Algorithmic) is a "masterwork of the third computer breakthrough" and he controls all aspects of the mission, essentially rendering Bowman and Poole mere "janitors".


During the voyage Hal predicts that the AE-35 antennae unit that maintains contact with Earth is about to fail. Bowman leaves the Discovery using one of its pods and replaces the unit. When the unit is checked no faults are found in it. Mission Control on Earth advises that it may be Hal who is at fault. Hal then predicts the failure of the second unit, whereupon Mission Control suggest disconnecting Hal and reverting to Earth Control. Almost immediately, Hal alerts the crew that the second AE-35 unit has failed. Poole exits the Discovery again, leaving his pod to replace the unit with the faultless original. However, apparently under Hal's control, the pod drifts into him and he is sent hurtling off into space.

Bowman is not yet totally convinced that Hal was behind Poole's death, but he demands manual control on the hibernation units so that he can revive one of the survey crew to replace his lost crew member. As Bowman starts to revive Whitehead, the Discovery suddenly depressurises and all life-support systems are terminated. Bowman manages to get to an oxygen supply and spacesuit, then goes into Hal's 'mind' and disconnects the higher functions of his electronic brain. Pleading for his consciousness, Hal 'dies.' Bowman revives the ship, ejects the dead bodies of the survey team and continues alone towards Saturn...

[In the film, Hal predicts one unit failure, and when it is removed and found to be faultless, Hal suggests putting it back and waiting for it to fail to localise the fault. Bowman and Poole shut themselves in one of the pods and turn off the communication devices so that Hal cannot hear them. They discuss the possibility that they will have to disconnect Hal if it is indeed him who is at error. Though Hal cannot hear them, he can read their lips, and when Poole goes to replace the original AE-35, he is thrown off into space by his attacking pod. Bowman then takes a pod to rescue Poole's body, but Hal refuses to allow Bowman back aboard the Discovery. Whilst Bowman is outside the ship, Hal disconnects the life- support systems on Hunter, Kaminski and Whitehead. Although he does not have his space-suit helmet with him, Bowman effects entry through Discovery's airlock and then proceeds to disconnect Hal.]

Unlike the film, but as in earlier versions of the screenplay, the novel provides an explanation for Hal's malfunction: Hal had been informed of the mission's true purpose but is directed to keep this a secret from Bowman and Poole. Against his own 'perfection', the act of lying is in itself a fault in Hal's mind. "Even the concealment of truth filled him with a sense of imperfection, of wrongness - of what, in a human being, would have been called guilt." Faced with this conflict in his programming, he begins to develop neuroses. "Yet this was still a relatively minor problem; he might have handled it - as most men handle their own neuroses - if he had not faced with a crisis that challenged his very existence." Since his overriding and primary goal is to complete the mission, he will not allow the humans to jeopardise it by disconnecting him. Moreover, he fears being "deprived of all his inputs, and thrown into an unimaginable state of unconsciousness. To Hal, this is the equivalent of Death. For he had never slept, and therefore he did not know that one could wake again... So he would protect himself, with all the weapons at his command... And then,

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.