So I know there are tons of reviews and analyses and whatnot about the book and the movie, separately and together. What could I possibly add to the conversation? So I'm just going to share my own personal experience.
I've never seen the movie in its entirety; it's one of those things I've been meaning and meaning to get around to, but just never have. I love sci-fi but in no way claim to be an expert; my dad got me started on Bradbury and Asimov when I was young, and I've been hooked ever since. So I was a little surprised I'd never gotten to this one for so long. There are so many new and shiny stories, it's easy to leave the classics behind, but I'm trying to beef up my lack.
The truth was, because of the last few chapters and the ending, this book was just okay for me. Ape-men visited by aliens in the beginning? Interesting. Finding a slab on the moon? Okay, I'll keep going. Interactions with Hal? Best scenes in the book for me. But then things sort of started slacking off. Going to Saturn, okay. And then the whole excruciatingly detailed hallucinogenic journey through space junkyards and stars, ending in a strange regression to a cognizant floating powerful baby...what...the...hell?
I know people encourage readers to engage in the mysticism, greater meaning, philosophy, blah, blah, blah. I don't really read sci-fi for mystical journeys. And so the ending just didn't do it for me. There was no resolution of character or plot, nothing I could hold on to...perhaps it was just over my head. So forgive me, die-hard Clarke fans, I tried. I wanted to like it, expected to like it. But in the end, I didn't walk away feeling I would ever read it again or recommend it to anyone.