Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Book Review - Proxima by Stephen Baxter

This is some damn fine science fiction. It ticked all the right boxes for me for what I consider to make essential sci-fi reading. So much so that it's one of those reviews where I get to list all the good things, without having to worry about the negative. A rare please :-)

For me science fiction is at it's best when tackling big questions, or for tight character led stories, and we are fortunate in having both here. There are a few big issues being tackled here, such as how humanity tackles resource scarcity post significant climate change. It looks at how we expand into the Solar System, from a practical, and from political perspectives. And perhaps the main one is how we explore, and then colonise another star system.

In answering these challenges with well researched consequence the author builds a believable world encompassing humanity's future. Although the binary nature of the politics does lack the nuance you'd expect for such events. Beyond that he constructs an alien world that is plausible and fascinating. The alien ecology is drawn with respectable detail and I loved the main life forms of the builders. They struck me as a novel creation, and one that managed to feel alien, as well as understandable.

There's a strong blend of characters here, including human and AI. For the human characters Yuri really stood out for me. He possessed a practicality, but also a sense of being out of his own time that appealed to me. Even better are the various AI characters, they each had their own characteristics that demonstrated being of a different order of intelligence, and personality, but also differentiated between each other. In particular the robot companion added some feeling to the colonisation threads.

Set against all this is a somewhat esoteric mystery relating to a discovered energy source, and some trapdoors. The applications of these are explored, but their meaning is only hinted at in this book. I've already bought the next book in the hopes of finding out more!

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. How would it be to live on such a world?

Click here to buy Proxima from Amazon

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