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World Engines: Destroyer

by Stephen Baxter

Series: World Engines (1)

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571384,135 (3.67)3
Hundreds of years in the future, on a stagnating and almost empty Earth, a space shuttle pilot from the early days of the 21st century is awoken from the cryogenic sleep he entered after a devastating accident. As he comes to terms with this new world, he begins to realise that their history does not match what he remembers - and that only he may be able to stop the coming catastrophe destined to destroy the planet. Until he meets a young woman who seems to have a drive of her own, and a plan...… (more)
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Reid Malenfant, he of Baxter’s Manifold trilogy, is awakened in 2469 from cold sleep after a near-fatal accident in 2019 because Emma Stoney, she of Baxter’s Manifold trilogy, who disappeared on a mission to Phobos in 2005… has just sent a radio message to Earth asking for Malenfant’s help. The world of the twenty-fifth century is considerably different to the world we, the readers, know and Malenfant remembers. The great push into space was reversed after native species on Venus and Europa were almost wiped out. There are AIs on the Moon and the other planets, but none on Earth, only “algorithmic-machines” (despite repeated assertions in the text that algorithmic machines are not aware, just sophisticated computers, they’re characterised pretty much the same as the human cast). For a third of the novel, nothing happens. Malenfant mooches about what’s left of Birmingham after 500 years of progress and climate change. But then he decides to go and rescue Stoney – although, from clues in the radio message, she’s a Stoney from an alternate universe, one in which Neil Armstrong did not die of a heart attack shortly before landing on the Moon. Fortunately, it transpires Earth has a sophisticated space capability, it just never uses it. Malenfant, his mentor (a teenage girl) and an algorithmic android (Malenfant’s nurse since he was awakened) head to Mars, meet Stoney, discover a weird tunnel in Phobos which gives access to alternate realities and they end up in one in which the British Empire is triumphant in space and head off with them to the “ninth planet”… We’ve all been here before; Baxter has been here before. The whole thing reads like it was cobbled together from discarded ideas from the Manifold trilogy and Proxima duology. It’s highly readable, but there’s a lot of set-up for very little pay-off. And the continuity is terrible, with characters joining in conversations despite not being present. Baxter bangs books like this out like sausages – an atelier can’t be that far off – and this one was clearly an opportunity to use some of that Britain in Space stuff he researched and wrote many years ago… When you see Stephen Baxter’s name on the cover, you pretty much know what to expect. This is not one of his better efforts, but it’s very much on-brand. ( )
1 vote iansales | Apr 21, 2020 |
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Hundreds of years in the future, on a stagnating and almost empty Earth, a space shuttle pilot from the early days of the 21st century is awoken from the cryogenic sleep he entered after a devastating accident. As he comes to terms with this new world, he begins to realise that their history does not match what he remembers - and that only he may be able to stop the coming catastrophe destined to destroy the planet. Until he meets a young woman who seems to have a drive of her own, and a plan...

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