28 January, 2014

Proxima by Stephen Baxter [Tim G, Northcote]

Stephen Baxter, author of series such as the Xeelee Sequence, the NASA Trilogy, and the Destiny's Children, has earned his place in the pantheon of science fiction writers. Baxter is influenced by H. G. Wells and writes at a level only seen in the masterful works of  Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. He is also on par with more recent science fiction authors such as Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton and Iain M Banks.

Baxter drops us into the mind of our protagonist Yuri Eden, as he wakes from involuntary stasis in a hospital which, by 23rd-century standards, seems poorly equipped. The gravity seems Earth norm, so he's not about to complain, having spent his last period out of stasis in a Mars labour camp, where the gravity was never quite right.

From this  kernel of experience, the story expands to encompass an intricate tale spanning two star systems, between which humanity's first interstellar steps are being made toward the Proxima system and an inhabitable world. However, these steps are being propelled by Kernels, mysterious high-energy exotic matter anomalies which can be harnessed to power space craft.

Throughout the story, we are led to question the costs at which humanity's progress is being made, and the effect the process is having on the fate of human civilisation. What I liked about this book was its scope. As the narrative extends into centuries, we are walked through them with a masterful collection of human interactions and character development.

Title: Proxima
Author: Stephen Baxter
ISBN: 9780575116849 (trade)(hbk.)
Published: 2013
Publisher: Gollancz

 - Tim G, Northcote Library

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