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Vacuum Diagrams (1997)
by Stephen Baxter
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I had trouble following any of this. Bought the book used, on impulse, having read none of the series of which it's a part. So to me they were a string of brief stories loosely connected by a narrative, and mostly involving speculative-edge physics which I couldn't comprehend. I read in in pieces over a long span of time (though not as long as the span of the series, half a billion years) so that made it even harder to follow. So my apology to the author for my low star rating; it was totally my fault for grabbing the wrong book first. ( )
This is some of the hardest of the hard SF out there. Staggering, even.
Let me back up. Baxter's hardest SF is several magnitudes harder than almost any SF author out there. His Xeelee Sequence novels are vast. I mean, we're dealing with an average of 5 million years worth of human evolution, galaxy crafting, and nearly unimaginable hugeness.
Stars' evolution are being sped up for the sake of Dark Matter alien civilizations and vast, inscrutable aliens of the baryonic universe (IE., us and those close to us) are fighting a losing battle against the quickening heat-death of the universe.
I remember my jaw dropping with the scope and how messed up the Ring was, a galaxy-sized superstring constructed around a naked black hole in order to punch a hole OUT of this universe because we can't defeat the truly alien aliens. And by we, I mean the Xeelee.
Humans are kinda idiots. But we have epic struggles and we change ourselves into very strange life, sometimes immortal, sometimes living on the crust of neutron stars, sometimes enslaved by other alien races, but usually always ten steps behind the Xeelee who just don't care about anyone else.
5 million years. That's a lot of amazing ideas jammed in here. Nanotech, physics discoveries, P complete theorems, black-hole quantum intelligences, spiders making webs between Pluto and Charon, deep sun explorers, living spaceship aliens, and truly vast wars and desperation.
And this novel is actually a future history made up of Baxter's short stories, all locked into the same worldbuilding. They're often centered around physics reveals, but there is also a ton of good character building going on, too.
The writing is sometimes not always the best I've ever read, but the sheer volume of ideas and mind-blowing events and situations more than makes up for that.
When I say I'm mind-blown, this is true after reading MOST of his other truly mind-blowing novels. The Xeelee sequence is simply... AMAZING. Wow. Wow. Wow. :)
It won't be for everyone. Not by along shot. But it is a definite must for fans of Cixin Liu or Peter Watts or Alaistair Reynolds. :) Robert L. Forward, too! Or David Brin! :)
As usual his short stories are better than his novels and this is no exception. For readers of his Xeelee series this book is essential to fully understanding all that happens in the main book sequence.
Like the Manifold series, spans the lifetime of the universe. A series of short stories woven together - at times this is a bit disjointed but overall it works. Explores humans vs Xelee on a longer time scale.
A collection of short stories based on the premises of the Xeelee series. I enjoyed these, and they made me want to read the fully-worked out versions in the novels. It's all very techno-sf, but I was in the mood for that and it fitted well.
The short stories are wrapped in a meta-dialogue, which was interesting in itself, so this is not just a pure collection book, it has more integrity that that would suppose.
Good shorts, make you want the real thing.
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Xeelee Sequence (5)
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Wikipedia in English (1)
"And everywhere the Humans went, they found life ..." This dazzling future history, winner of the 2000 Philip K. Dick Award, is the most ambitious and exciting since Asimov's classic Foundation saga. It tells the story of Humankind -- all the way to the end of the Universe itself. Here, in luminous and vivid narratives spanning five million years, are the first Poole wormholes spanning the solar system; the conquest of Human planets by Squeem; GUTships that outrace light; the back-time invasion of the Qax: the mystery and legacy of the Xeelee, and their artifacts as large as small galaxies; photino birds and Dark Matter; and the Ring, where Ghost, Human, and Xeelee contemplate the awesome end of Time. Stephen Baxter is the most acclaimed and accomplished of a brilliant new generation of authors who are expanding the vision of science fiction and taking itto a new golden age.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813 — Literature English (North America) American fiction
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