Study Guide

2001: A Space Odyssey Setting

By Arthur C. Clarke


Earth, the Solar System, the Galaxy, from millions of years ago till tomorrow

2001 tends to be more about setting than plot. The book covers huge amounts of time, from the dim distant prehistoric past on earth into the future. It also covers huge amounts of space, from earth to the moon to Saturn and then way beyond into impossibly distant galaxies. The big leaps of time and space are meant to be cool and awe-inspiring. Toward the end of the novel, Bowman thinks:

He did not even attempt to grasp the scale of the inferno toward which he was descending. (43.2)

…And that's sort of the point. 2001 uses its big setting to make your jaw drop; it's setting as awe-inspiring spectacle. (And yes, this has a lot to do with the fact that the novel was originally a film—in a lot of ways it's a book about seeing cool special effects.)