Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Baxter’

Xelee: Vengeance by Stephen Baxter

August 25, 2017 - 3:34 pm No Comments

Xeelee: Vengeance
Author: Stephen Baxter
Publisher: Gollancz
Page count/Size: 346pp/Trade paperback
Release date: 15th June 2017
Reviewer: Chris Stocks

Check out Xeelee: Vengeance by Stephen Baxter http://amzn.to/2wb1PQl
Note: This is the first of a duology from Stephen Baxter, the conclusion of his Xeelee Sequence of short stories and novels. Having not read any of the previous books, I have reviewed this book as a standalone novel.

It is 3646. Michael Poole, a wormhole-engineer and a young scion of the powerful Poole dynasty, is near Io, field-testing one gate of a new wormhole transit system, when suddenly a number of alien objects come through.

At first the intentions of the aliens appear unclear, but as they slowly make their way into the inner Solar System, their actions become more overtly hostile as they start attacking humanity’s many colonies and outposts before preparing a devastating attack on Earth itself.

Apparently, a million years in the future, at the centre of the galaxy, there is a statue of Michael Poole, commemorating his part in a million year war with the Xeelee. In a literary cross between The Terminator and Independence Day, the Xeelee have used the wormhole to travel back in time to attempt to kill Michael Poole, wipe out pesky humanity and erase the war from history.

Despite initial misgivings, Michael is forced to become involved in the unfolding events. He pursues the Xeelee across the solar system, accompanied by the outspoken, anarchic and impulsive pilot, Nicola Emry. On Earth, he is aided (and occasionally thwarted) by his father and head of the family business, Harry, who seems more interested in manipulating the crisis for short term political and business advantage than stopping the aliens. He is also offered advice by Muriel, his long-dead mother, who has been re-created as a virtual simulation, and Gea, a centuries-old AI.

The action sweeps through the solar system as Michael returns to Earth, pursues the Xeelee to Venus and then to the interior of the Sun(!), before battle is joined, first on Mars and then Earth at the novel’s climax . There Michael must decide whether to risk everything in a desperate gamble to save Earth from total destruction…

This is a fast-paced and exciting read, full of high-concept SF; wormhole technology, high-tech propulsion systems and super-weapons extrapolated from cutting-edge physics. There are also some interesting asides, such as the discovery of dark matter life-forms deep inside the Sun and the amusing idea of a virtual Barsoom, created in the Martian desert by gamers, being used to divert a Xeelee attack.

Personally I would have preferred a little more character development and more details about the 37th century society – though perhaps this can be found elsewhere in the Xeelee Sequence. In any case, it is perhaps a little churlish to make such minor complaints about what is otherwise an excellent read.

In the novel’s coda, Michael and Nicola prepare to leave Earth in order to follow the Xeelee to the galactic core, presumably the starting-point of the concluding novel. I look forward to reading it – though I may use the time before it is published to catch up on earlier Xeelee books.

The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter

April 26, 2017 - 5:48 pm No Comments

THE MASSACRE OF MANKIND by Stephen Baxter
Gollancz / 464 pgs / £18.99 hardback / ISBN 1473205093
Reviewed by Carol Goodwin.


This novel is a sequel to H G Wells’ THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, and the new story revolves around the Martians return to Earth in the 1920’s. Whilst other authors have previously written sequels, this version is listed as “authorised by the H G Wells Estate” and I presume was timed to coincide with 2016 being the 150th anniversary of Wells’ birth. The author, Stephen Baxter has previously written another authorised H G Wells’ sequel, THE TIME SHIPS which was a follow-up to THE TIME MACHINE and marked the centenary of that book’s publication.
It is fourteen years since the Martians invaded England, and the world has changed considerably. Examination of wrecked and abandoned Martian machinery has led to significant advances in technology. History as we know it has changed as a consequence of the original invasion; most significantly, a recovering UK formed an alliance with Germany, and a “Schlieffen War” between Russia and Germany is still ongoing. The governments of Earth scan the skies, but as another close approach between Earth and Mars nears, they are confident that their progress and prior knowledge means that this time they are prepared for the Martians. But when another Martian fleet begins to land, it becomes obvious that the Martians have also learned lessons and adapted so that yet again mankind is in deadly peril.
Writing in another author’s world, especially one so well-known and iconic as this one, is always going to be a difficult task. What is done very well is the attention to the details of 1920’s geography, vocabulary and appropriate technology. It is clear that a considerable amount of research has gone into writing this novel, and I also enjoyed the little nods to other people or works connected to Mars, ranging from Schiaparelli through to Grover’s Mill.
The worldbuilding is excellent and like the original, there are some suitably gruesome accounts of the Martians’ treatment of captured humans. However, I found myself a little frustrated with the pacing. The first section of the book, which deals with the initial landing, consolidation and the flight of refugees is the most successful in my opinion. After that however, there is an interlude of a couple of years where the Martians in England spend a long time just consolidating this bridgehead, without any attempt to spread further, and I found the urgency and menace of the story evaporating in this section. Towards the later part of the book there are further landings around the world, and the pace picks up but it felt to me like there was then too little space left to give these invasions sufficient details and thus engage the reader.
Fans of Wells’ will appreciate that the narrative does link back and reference the original story. It also includes many of the characters from the Wells’ story, including the original narrator, Walter Jenkins and the artilleryman, although much of the tale is now told by Julie, the sister-in-law of Walter Jenkins. However, I felt that the major focus was on the plot and that thus the characters often seemed to lack depth and I often found it hard to care much about their struggles.
Finally, it was always going to be difficult to find an ending with equivalent impact to the original. Without giving away the conclusion, this story finishes with a resolution that feels a little too “easy” and hence unsatisfying, although there is a “epilogue” which leaves scope for future developments. To summarise, this is a “curate’s egg” of a book – there are some very good bits but other bits that didn’t work for me. CG
(ARC kindly donated at Gollancz SF Gateway anniversary party)

Competition War of The Worlds sequel

January 13, 2017 - 3:10 pm No Comments

Thanks to those generous people @Gollancz we are offering one lucky UK winner a chance to win ~ Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter.

 

READ THIS BLOG – RULES AT THE END

A word from PR Guru @steviefinegan

Hello all,

I’m very excited to tell you about this; The Massacre of Mankind is a brilliant way to start the year. It is written by one of the UK’s best-known and most well-respected SF authors, continuing on from where HG Wells left off with The War of the Worlds. It’s already seen some fantastic reviews in The Times and SFX Magazine, not to mention that the Guardian named it as one of their top books to look out for in 2017?

Stephen will be doing a few events across the country.
· 12:30pm – 1:30pm Thursday 19th Jan, Waterstones Birmingham – Lunchtime signing
· 6:30pm Thursday 19th Jan, Waterstones Nottingham – Evening talk and signing
· 6:30pm Friday 20th Jan, Blackwell’s Edinburgh – Evening talk and signing

If you live close by do come along and meet Stephen, it would be great to see you.
All the best,

Stevie

 

120 years on from THE WAR OF THE WORLDS…
The authorised sequel, written by one of the world’s greatest science fiction authors
THE
MASSACRE
OF
MANKIND

STEPHEN BAXTER

Published by Gollancz
19 January 2017
Hardback £18.99 | eBook £9.99 | Audiobook £19.99

It has been 14 years since the Martians invaded England. The world has moved on, always watching the skies but content that we know how to defeat the Martian menace. Machinery looted from the abandoned capsules and war-machines has led to technological leaps forward. The Martians are vulnerable to earth germs. The Army is prepared.

So when the signs of launches on Mars are seen, there seems little reason to worry. Unless you listen to one man, Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells’ book. He is sure that the Martians have learned, adapted, understood their defeat. He is right. Thrust into the chaos of a new invasion, a journalist – sister-in-law to Walter Jenkins – must survive, escape and report on the war. The Massacre of Mankind has begun.

‘Stephen Baxter is arguably Wells’s current representative on Earth.’’
– BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science

STEPHEN BAXTER is the pre-eminent science fiction writer of his generation. He has co-written with Terry Pratchett and Alastair Reynolds and written sequels to the works of other scifi greats including Arthur C Clarke. Published around the world, he has also won major awards in the UK, US, Germany and Japan. Born in 1957 he has degrees from Cambridge and Southampton. He lives in Northumberland with his wife and is a HG Wells expert.

Stevie Finegan, Press Officer @StevieFinegan

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The Long Earth

September 28, 2012 - 9:45 am No Comments

Meet Steve Jones, my new reviewer – he says;
“Zombies ate my bio”

The Long Earth
Author: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Publisher: Doubleday
Release date: 21 June 2012
Page Count: 344 pages hardback.
Reviewer: Steve Jones

In 1987 I shared a pizza with Terry Pratchett and we talked about the books he was writing. One became “Truckers”, and the other took twenty five years to see print. He told me about “hypedrive” (not “hyperdrive”) which only works because people believe it does, and hominids with a matriarchal society. I think some of this went into “Lords and Ladies” where the extremely unpleasant elves are extradimensional invaders with a hive society.

This year “The Long Earth” appears in collaboration with Stephen Baxter, who has considerable experience with science fiction and variant hominids. The hypedrive has become the Stepper, which can be made by anyone from simple household supplies. The protagonists are Joshua, who was the first child born away from Datum Earth (our world), and Lobsang, an intelligent computer that claims to be a reincarnated Tibetan. Together they explore some of the mysteries of the Long Earth. The story is compelling, but not as humorous as you might expect for a Pratchett where the humble potato is the essential power source for the Stepper.

One problem I had was peoples’ willingness to go homesteading in far off dimensions away from modern medicine and the Internet. I might go “next door” for peace and quiet, but it would be nice to know the modern world is just one step away. There are some similarities with Charlie Stross’s “Merchant Princes” books, such as how do they stop robbers from stepping into bank vaults.

This is probably the first in a series as the dust jacket mentions on the inside, but don’t worry this is a complete story. I can see several elements that could get more exposure in later books, such as the mysterious town where humans and trolls live in peace, and the growing resentment of the minority who cannot use a Stepper at all.

Overall, a good read.