Arthur C. Clarke was another engineer with a taste for free love but a love of really big ideas. I've always felt that Clarke's reiterated belief that we would evolve to let slip our mortal forms and become one with the cosmos was a yearning to escape the class and sexual restrictions of 1940s Britain.
His prose is what critics call 'workmanlike' meaning that it gets you from point A to point B without trying flash you some leg or sell you a bridge. A style ideally suited to the 'fuck-me' concepts of Childhood's End, The City and the Stars and and Rendezvous with Rama.
In my opinion 2001 is not a significant work and without the vast gravitational attraction of Kubrick's film it would be lost amongst the intellectual grandeur of Clarke's other work. Strangely what I always take away from Clarke is an immense sense of sadness and loss in the face of eternity.
Isaac Azimov makes Arthur C. Clarke's prose style appear positively chatty and verbose. He was the master of the puzzle, the howdunnit and the shaggy dog story. Ironically, given that he seemed to regard characterisation as something that happened to other people, he is the most sociological of the men with the slide rules. Azimov often looked at the impact the choices made by a society would have on the individual, the culturally induced agoraphobia of the Terrans in The Caves of Steel or its mirror counterpart in The Naked Sun are good examples.
It took me a while to determine what Azimov's influence on me might be, largely because it was such a huge but nebulous influence that I almost overlooked it. Azimov's big lesson for me was how maintaining internal consistency, even if it is just for a span of a short story, is the key to keeping the extraordinary narrative afloat - even if it is a shaggy dog story based on an excruciating pun(2).
(2) Shah Guido G - the horror, the horror!