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Ultima (Proxima 2) by Stephen Baxter

Ultima (Proxima 2) (edition 2014)

by Stephen Baxter (Author)

Series: Proxima (2)

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207992,966 (3.17)2
On the planet of Per Ardua, alien artifacts were discovered-hatches that allowed humans to step across light-years of space as if they were stepping into another room. But this newfound freedom has consequences. As humanity discovers the real nature of the universe, a terrifying truth comes to light: We all have countless pasts converging in this present-and our future is terrifyingly finite. There are minds in the universe that are billions of years old, and now we are vulnerable to their plans for us. It's time to fight back and take control.… (more)
Title:Ultima (Proxima 2)
Authors:Stephen Baxter (Author)
Info:Gollancz (2014), 560 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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Ultima by Stephen Baxter



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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
This one was a satisfying end to the duology as long as we go along with the premise that the past is always full of options and the future always ends in death.

I'm talking universal death under the theory that there is a finite number of universes in a multi-verse, meaning that somewhere along the line the bubble is going to pop when it runs up against the wall. It's a very fascinating theory and it even makes a ton of sense because infinite is a very irrational number.

So what does this mean for this story? It means that none of us have as long as we think we have. It's the universal equivalent of random death. It can happen at any time. It can even happen to whole universes at any time.

This is scary. It also means that the story frame of massively parallel intelligences toying around with space-time effects in order to tweak the universe's beginnings or any small factor afterward is really just a last-ditch effort to find a way out of the exploding-bubble mess.

On a human scale, we were introduced to weird things happening such as alternate timelines re-writing the universe with the exception of the people going through the Hatches on these remote planets, each of whom remember everything about their old universe.

In this novel, the whole alternate timeline angle is taken all the way, giving us a Roman Empire that never ended, an Incan civilization that succeeded and colonized worlds, too. Each one is just another subtle tweak attempting to give humanity that one small glimmer of hope, that tiny little edge.

So what's the real theme of the novel, then? Curiosity is really big. So is the simplicity of wanting a journey. None of it is easy, of course, and it's a real trip to see Roman Legionnaires get pummeled by the Incans, but the real treat has got to be the inclusion of the AIs.

I don't know. The novel sets out to demonstrate tons of options that always narrow down to the last single choice, or no choice. He succeeds perfectly.

Me, personally? I think it's a perfect expression of fatalism. No hope. Surrounded by endless hope, super-intelligences dreaming up new realities, and yet, all of it is for nothing. It's rather scary.

Good book, but still rather scary. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
This doesn't suffer the problems of some sequels in that it doesn't take the story into enough new places, as this branches out in various directions, while still leaving unanswered questions for book 3! ( )
  paulmorriss | Dec 30, 2017 |
I like alternative histories, it is a completely unmined field of novel entertainment, if done right. This one is done terribly wrong. Apparently the Romans have both constructed spaceships but those appear still like rowboats completely with chain anchors. The poor crew has resort to using parchment because their charts aren't digital, even though consoles light up in the background. If that wasn't enough the writing is so convoluted with ever changing perspectives that I had to go back every few sentences to make sure I had read everything correctly. ( )
  TheCriticalTimes | Sep 10, 2016 |
This is a sequel to the author’s Proxima, and while I have read some reviews that said it can be read as a stand-alone work, I strongly disagree. In any event, why would you ever want to read book two of a series before reading the work that preceded it?

I enjoyed Proxima and looked forward to reading this book, right up until the last couple of pages of Proxima, where an introduction into Ultima was presented. Unfortunately, my premonition was verified. In Ultima, the concept of alternate histories was advanced, a notion that I sometimes find very compelling. In this case, however, the alternative histories which were advanced were so absurd, that I couldn’t work my way past them.

MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW. You see, in the first alternate history, the Roman Empire never falls, but instead proceeds into the realm of space exploration. The problem is, they never advance beyond their turn of the millennium (First Millennium) technological or cultural proficiency. They just fly around in spaceships, essentially habitats which model ancient Roman cities, guided by Arab navigators (no computers), carrying lances and short swords and utilizing slave labor. Believe me, it is as ridiculous as it sounds.

The next alternate history posits an Incan civilization that ultimately conquers the world and also advances to the level of space exploration, again without any additional technological or cultural advancement. The have constructed a space habitat of the following dimension: A cylinder 3,000 miles long and 400 miles in diameter. Okay, a bunch of Incans, wearing colorful feathers, sacrificing virgins, with no obvious technology, travel the stars and construct an impossible piece of complex engineering.

These absurdly implausible plot constructs destroy what is otherwise a very original and thoughtful work. Loaded with hard science fiction and sometimes very challenging philosophy and astrophysical theory (wormholes, frictionless slide/tunnels, energy kernels), the story continually gets bogged down in frustratingly stupid scenarios. It is a sometimes inconvenient character trait that I am unable to simply look past such absurdities, but instead allow them to destroy my enjoyment of what could otherwise be an enjoyable reading experience. If you are able to suspend disbelief, you might enjoy this sequel. ( )
  santhony | Aug 26, 2016 |
This writer has been around now for many years as a mainstay of British SF but all good things come and go and this writer is plainly running on empty. In this book we have ancient civilisations with space travel, aloof AIs, a chatty android and a mysterious chain of portals that open into 'somewhere else'. Fun maybe hardly deep. Nevertheless, I will continue to buy books by this author for old times... ( )
  AlanPoulter | Jul 9, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephen Baxterprimary authorall editionscalculated
Youll, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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