This is the first book in a four book series.
Three million years ago the creatures that would become man are on the brink of extinction. Eking out a bleak existence by gathering what food they can from the land. Tribal warfare is continuous as there is never enough to eat. Many are killed by other animals.
Then one day a strange object appears in their world. A huge black featureless slab standing upright. An object totally at odds with the natural world. This “monolith” begins to exert it’s influence on the tribe living nearby. An influence that encourages intelligent thought. Soon they begin to make and use simple tools. With this one step forward they begin to thrive. Animals that once hunted them are now a source of food. Attacks from neighboring tribes are easily defeated. A future with modern man at the top of the food chain is assured.
Three million years later Man has begun to travel into space. A second monolith is discovered on the Moon buried in the crater Tycho. When the monolith is unearthed, and the sun strikes it for the first time, it blasts an incredibly powerful radio signal to Iapetus, one of Saturn’s moons. An ambitious mission is launched to investigate what could be man’s first encounter with extraterrestrials.
If the movie left you totally bewildered, you are not alone. However the book is typical of Arthur C Clarke. Enjoyable and easy to follow. Then after you’ve read the book, watch the movie again. You’ll enjoy it much more.