Scattered across the planet are floating silver orbs impervious to all weapons and impossible to communicate with. Are these technologically advanced devices responsible for creating and sustaining the rifts in time? Are they cameras through which inscrutable alien eyes are watching? Or are they something stranger and more terrifying still?
The answer may lie in the ancient city of Babylon, where two groups of refugees from 2037 - three cosmonauts returning to Earth from the International Space Station, and three United Nations peacekeepers on a mission in Afghanistan - have detected radio signals: the only such signals on the planet, apart from their own. The peacekeepers find allies in nineteenth-century British troops and in the armies of Alexander the Great. The astronauts, crash-landed in the steppes of Asia, join forces with the Mongol horde led by Genghis Khan. The two sides set out for Babylon, each determined to win the race for knowledge...and the power that lies within.
Yet the real power is beyond human control, perhaps even human understanding. As two great armies face off before the gates of Babylon, it watches, waiting.
©2005 Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"An exciting tale full of high-tech physics, military tactics and larger-than-life characters in the first of two novels related to the bestselling senior author's Space Odyssey series." (Publishers Weekly)
I found this book to be a meaningless and puerile soap opera, bereft of the original and rich concepts of Clarke's earlier work. The narration is very good overall, but unable to redeem a plotless, pandering cash cow.
This is really a review of the series of three books. The premise is interesting - an earth suddenly reassembled from fragments of deferent epochs - and the writing reasonably good, but the resolution is at best unsatisfying. I'm not convinced that the central premise (the actions of the firstborn) is even that sound.
Two quibbles. First, as many have noted the contrived accents are horrible in the first book, particularly those of the Americans. Second, anti-American prejudice underscores the series. American characters are at best chauvanistic cowboys and at worst mass murderers, while the non-Americans are sensitive and enlightened. The authors matter-of-factly trumpet some questionable philosophy as an easy panacea for all the worlds ills. This sort of thing can usually be shrugged off, or may in fact appeal to many readers.
The idea of an earth reassembled in time has been explored before, notably in the excellant "October the First is Too Late" by Fred Hoyle (1966, no audio that I am aware of).
This is my first exposure to a novel by Stephen Baxter. I've read a number of his short stories and love them. While the book wasn't awful, while listening to it, I got the unshakable feeling that Baxter only wrote it to pay the bills.
This book is not science fiction. It is fantasy. Few attempts are made at explaining the "science" behind the storyline. Of those few attempts, most of them are laughably broken. Baxter is no slouch when it comes to scientific knowledge, so I can only assume it wasn't a priority for him.
The book is a flimsy premise for creating anachronistic confrontations. The plot runs on rails. By the one hour mark, you will know exactly where the plot is going. There is some enjoyment to be had from listening to it unfold. However, the ending seems a bit hurried, and relies heavily upon deus ex machina.
What really bugged me about the book was the characters. They are all one-dimensional cliches. Every character is built with cartoonish exaggeration, and an unwavering path through the story. Making this even worse, it becomes clear that each of the characters is a ham-handed attempt at modern social or political commentary. The arrogant, ambitious character from the modern American South is a transparent George W. Bush knock-off. There's an uptight, 19th century Yankee and an even more uptight 19th century Anglo-Indian. Every character who is not an American is even tempered and smarter than the Americans. I appreciate social commentary, and I'm not especially nationalistic myself, but I found the hyperbole with which the characters were drawn to be tantamount to a bunch of straw man arguments. Social commentary in novels is best when subtle. Listening to long winded, heavy handed social commentary for 11 hours is a bit of a drag on the experience.
The reader is pretty good. He mispronounced a few words here and there, but spoke clearly and with reasonably good inflection.
On the whole, it's interesting but forgettable.
I was very disappointed with this. Found it disjointed, hard to follow. Concept had potential but did not flow well.
I have always enjoyed Clarke's thoughtful commentaries on life and perception as told through his fiction, but this book just book just didn't deliver. The characters were flat and the juxtaposition of historical threads just didn't sound believable.
I'd give it a listen if you want to catch the entire series, but this will be the end of the series for me.
It is fun to imagine the interaction of characters from vastly different time periods and societies. How do they react to being pulled from what is familiar? How do they deal with a culture that has different values from their own? One reviewer mentioned they felt the story was disjointed. I didn't feel that but part of the point is how do people react when their world becomes disjointed.
This is probably something a lot of people have wondered about, two great historical figures facing each other in a jumbled world. I really enjoyed the mixture of people from the various time periods but some things were strange.
When a cell phone battery went dead no one used solar cells or tried to make a Baghdad battery. Batteries can be made from various items that were on hand in any century. When they were trying to think of a weapon to make no one thought of the trebuchet, which could also be made in any time period.
Despite these and other things I could not put my audio player down. I went to sleep listening to this. It was very enjoyable.
I wasn't sure about this book when I saw it, but I needed something to listen to on my desktop so I got it.
I love it!
It is well written, the naration is very good, and its a fun what if book. It requires you to suspend reality abit but go ahead and just enjoy, remember its fiction.
Too much history, too little science fiction.
Boring, kept on listening just to see what happens.
Characters were flat and totally non-engaging.
Story was sort of ok, but could not make up for the rest.
I enjoyed listening to this book. I knew where it was going, but it was still fun listening to how the authors made it happen.
"Didn't quite make it"
This book operates at two levels. One is the concept of an Earth divided up and reassembled from pieces from different times. What manner of advanced beings could have such control over the very fabric of space-time and what could be their motive? The second explores the potential clash caused by a sudden juxtaposition of cultures from different times in man's history (and future, the book is set in 2037). The problem is that the book switches rather unconvincingly from one to another. Its starts promisingly enough and progresses to explore what might happen if people from the 21st and 19th century encounter the armies of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan before returning rather abruptly to the the science fiction element at the end. Each aspect is well enough written and the whole is competently read, but neither achieves the potential that you feel it could have.
"Could not put down for a moment."
This is the first audio book I've listened to and I am so happy I did. From the moment it began I didn't want to stop listening. The story its self is amazing and it is read perfectly. As soon as it finished I downloaded part two of this series and I am about to get the third. If you enjoy science fiction or just a plot that will leave you wanting for more this is definitely an ideal listen.
I've read many AC Clarke books, and this is amongst the most riveting. I like the subtle connection to 2001. I am really looking forward to the next two books.
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