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 list..Show More »ening 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.
This is the second book of a series, but so little from the first book is used in this book, you really don't have to start with the first book if you..Show More » don't want.
Neither Clarke or Baxter are known for character development. The are know for Science and showing the epic size of our Universe. This book is no different from the most of what Clarke writes, so if you like Clarke you will like this. I have always been interested in our Sun and there is a lot here on the Sun. If you are not into science or the Sun then you will not want this book.
I liked the old fashioned Can Do attitude of this book. I am not sure I have the confidence in the human race to work together, as suggested here, but it was nice to dream. I also believe having one big shield instead of several small shields, may have been a little old fashioned. In the eighties we thought one big lens for Hubble was the way to go. After putting it into space and having nothing but problems with the lens, we discovered that a group of smaller lenses working together would have worked better and that is the way our big telescopes are being built today.
Some may be offended by Clarke's views on religion. If you have read Clarke before you know he hates religion and blames them for the woes of the earth. He also makes it plain here again that people who believe in a Creator are Idiots. He also uses again, the Star of Bethlehem, to represent evil. I am able to look past this, but you might not. Clarke is dead now, so he is finding out the truth.
I was a little surprised by the anti Chinese sentiment in this book. I laughed at Clarke and Baxter's, couple of attempts at sex scenes. You could certainly tell two nerds wrote them. At the beginning there is an attempt to show sympathy for a pretty person being taken serious in a group of scientist. There was more feeling shown for an AI dying then for millions of people dying, or one scientist's own daughter. One AI was even the biggest hero. Clarke believes that if everyone was educated we would not have wars. I believe it would help, but Clarke has evidently not seen what happens when a group of tenured College PHD's, don't want someone with different political views entering there departments.
I often have different views on John Lee's strange voice and his lack of doing different voices, even between genders, but I felt he fit this book well.