The very far future: The galaxy is a drifting wreck of black holes, neutron stars, and chill white dwarfs. The age of star formation is long past. Yet there is life here, feeding off the energies of the stellar remnants, and there is mind, a tremendous galaxy-spanning intelligence, each of whose thoughts lasts a hundred thousand years. And this mind cradles memories of a long-gone age when a more compact universe was full of light. The 27th century: Proxima Centauri, an undistinguished red dwarf star, is the nearest star to our sun - and (in this fiction) - the nearest to host a world, Proxima IV, habitable by humans. But Proxima IV is unlike Earth in many ways. Huddling close to the warmth, orbiting in weeks, it keeps one face to its parent star at all times. The "substellar point", with the star forever overhead, is a blasted desert, and the "antistellar point" on the far side is under an ice cap in perpetual darkness. How would it be to live on such a world? Yuri Jones, with a thousand others, is about to find out.
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What an incredible journey this book is. It's not at all what I was expecting it to be when I started it. It is, I think, Baxter's finest book yet in a career of incredible hard sci fi adventures.
I have been reading Baxter for about 15 years, starting with his Xeelee sequence, and have been a fan ever since. I felt some of his more recent work, like the Long Earth trilogy, were vastly inferior to what he'd done in the past, and others, like the Flood/Ark duology, were so mind-numbingly depressing as to be almost not worth reading. But Proxima is just what I needed from Baxter: a perfect blend of hard sci fi adventure and discovery, with the undertones of vast cosmic machinations you'd expect from vintage Baxter works.
The story has a rich palette of characters, more than any I can remember in any of his recent works. Baxter has been criticized for having very limited characterization, which I think is a somewhat fair assessment, but this book featured a host of distinct, three-dimensional characters with very different perspectives, motivations, and backgrounds. The main character is Yuri Eden, a man sent on a one-way trip to Proxima, the nearest star to our solar system, along with a crew of rag-tag ne'er-do-wells, to colonize the planet in preparation for future human expansion. Think the British colonization of Australia with convicts, only in space. Things...don't go smoothly as you might expect.
From this point, Baxter launches into a deeply complex bit of world-building, creating an interplanetary human society in the twenty-second century, which has survived the calamitous "jolts" of climate change and are faced with a cold war between the two economic superpowers of the time, the U.N. and China. Realistic physics and space travel mechanics abound, as usual for Baxter. On Proxima itself, Baxter imagines a rich world where life evolved very differently from on Earth, but also more similarly than it ought to have. Mysteries build upon mysteries as the colonists of Prox seek to survive and cope with their situation, while back in the solar system, shocking discoveries are made on Mercury.
The story kept me in suspense most of its run time. Baxter has greatly evolved his craft of storytelling. He avoids cliches deftly and brings one unexpected twist after another with each chapter. You'll never believe where things ultimately end up by the book's end. And underneath all the human drama is the looming presence of something far greater and far more disturbing. Events on Prox, and in the solar system, haven't happened by chance. What it all means is not resolved by the end of the novel. Rather, it ends on multiple cliffhangers with only a glimmer of the vaster things to come. This is the first book in a series of at least two, so don't go into it expecting everything to get wrapped up. Nevertheless, you will find yourself unable to stop listening as the plot drives further and further toward its conclusion. I cannot wait for book two, Ultima.
If you're a fan of Baxter, this is a no-brainer to get. It's his best work in years, and shows his evolution as a writer, thinker, and story-teller. If you're new to Baxter, you could hardly ask for a more accessible, exciting, and relevant hard sci fi novel to start on. It's easily the best sci fi book I've read this year, and perhaps in the last several.
The narrator is fantastic. His native accent is British, but he can do thoroughly convincing American and Australian accents effortlessly. His Hisapnic accents aren't quite as polished, but they're also not as frequent. His reading of the material was perfect: serious, sometimes grave, with excellent inflection and diction. I loved his performance and will be looking forward to hearing him again on other books, especially the next book in this series, I sincerely hope.
- Greyflood "Thirty-something geek who loves sci fi and fantasy."
could be the start of a good series
Proxima; the new book by Stephen Baxter. tell the story of the human interfacing with the plant Proxima, It is a good start to a series. even though it is a little slow in starting, Mr, McCarley narration is brilliant,