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)
The story reads like an extended version of the Star Trek Original Series episode "The Savage Curtain." The Earth has been broken up into numerous "time fragments," each stuck sometime in our past. The fun begins when people and animals cross over between fragments, including some of history's most notable warriors. The narration is superior, and it actually "lifts" the story up when it begins to drag in the middle. I enjoyed this audiobook.
The premise is excellent, as would be expected from Clarke. The fact that unlike Clarke's classics, this was written in much more rencent times, he includes a slew of current scientific ideas that will tickle the imaginations of hard sci-fi fans. I was disappointed, however, by the reader. He does not seem capable of varying his voice enough to create separate voices for each character. He instead tries to rely upon his poor foreign accents, assigning a horrendously stereotypical regional or foreign accent to each character. Some of them are so aweful (like his hideous attempts at US regional accents) that it really detracted from the wonderful writing of the book. I guess I've been spoiled by Lloyd James (amazingly talented narrator of a number of superb Heinlein books available here -- check them out!!).
Unbelievably great book and good listening! I was swept up and away into the visual patchwork quilt of many times merged together and it felt very believable! I highly recommend anything Clarke has ever written. His view of the human race as a whole, almost as an organism, comes through crystal clear. He tends to be a bit off on the individuality, but not because of any lack of depth, I think it's because he simply "sees" a bigger picture.
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