Monday, July 02, 2007

Timelike Infinity

Timelike Infinity

Stephen Baxter

Date: 31 July, 1997   —   Book

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Fiction, Science Fiction

I like Baxter's writing, I really do, even though he sets most of his stories in some sort of futile universe where humanity crashes and burns somehow. In this instance, a wormhole project is nearing completion, connecting a near-future Earth with a further-future Earth in which humanity has been conquered by an alien race. Cross-time war of a sort follows.

And over everything hangs the threat of the godlike Xeelee, who pose no direct threat to anyone but who are so far advanced that nobody bothers to innovate for themselves anymore. Instead, various races fight for scraps of Xeelee technology.

Brin had a similar supposition in his Uplift series but dealt with it differently, allowing the possibility of innovation. But in Baxter's universe, nobody bothers because the Xeelee have, in fact, perfected everything, including themselves... through cross-temporal modification. Paradox doesn't seem to cut it, quite.

The funny part is that I don't usually care for dystopian science fiction, but Baxter usually has enough of a focus on striving individuals to make it interesting. And really, those individuals don't fail in a manner consistent with dystopias; instead, they get a little depressed at the eventual fate of the species, but manage to do okay with themselves.

Damning with faint praise, I see. How about this: try his short stories in Vacuum Diagrams and see if you like them. If you do, track down the books it references, as I am doing. If not, little time is lost.

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