1987 Book Club Edition; Ballantine Books publishers, New York; hardbound; very good condition with unmarked pages; dust jacket quite good with minimal edge wear.
It is the third book in Clarke's Space Odyssey series. It returns to one of the lead characters of the previous novels, Heywood Floyd, and their adventures from the 2061 return of Halley's Comet to Jupiter's moon Europa.
Clarke had originally intended to write the third book after NASA's Galileo mission to Jupiter had returned its findings in the late 1980s. The probe had been initially scheduled for launch in 1984 but this revised back to 1985 and then 1986. It was delayed further in wake of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Deciding not to wait, Clarke took inspiration for his sequel from the return of Halley's Comet. Galileo was eventually launched by Space Shuttle Atlantis on the STS-34 mission in October 1989. It arrived in Jovian orbit almost eight years after the publication of 2061: Odyssey Three.
2061 is set 51 years after the events of 2010: Odyssey Two and 60 years after those of 2001: A Space Odyssey. At the end of that novel, the enigmatic aliens who built the Monolith had transformed the planet Jupiter into a mini-sun in order to aid the evolution of life on Jupiter's moon Europa. A message was sent to Earth referring to Jupiter's moons:
ALL THESE WORLDS ARE YOURS—EXCEPT EUROPA
ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE.
The opening chapters of 2061 gradually explain the events that have taken place in the interim years. The new sun, dubbed 'Lucifer', has transformed the moons of the former Jupiter: Io has become a volcanic hellhole, Europa an ocean world shrouded by clouds, and Ganymede a temperate world that the human race is colonizing. Large-scale interplanetary travel is now commercially viable with muon-catalyzed fusion-powered spacecraft. But humanity is wary of sending spacecraft close to Europa despite its fascinating mysteries, including the appearance of a large mountain, dubbed 'Mount Zeus', on its surface. On Earth, a period of relative peace has evolved between the United States, Soviet Union, and China, although a violent revolution has taken place in South Africa (now the United States of Southern Africa or USSA): the white population fled to Europe, taking most of the country's wealth with them and leaving the black population to rebuild the economy, which they did in a matter of weeks thanks to the country's diamond mines...