Proxima by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I kinda dropped off the Stephen Baxter map for a good decade while he was writing about things that were mostly on the earth or in the far past, but before then, I was a die hard fan. Sure, I was always mildly or slightly more annoyed with the characters sometimes for various reasons usually regarding subtlety, but when it came to any portion of the universe he was making, I was always enraptured like all the best captive audiences alive.
No, this isn't a galaxy-wide naked singularity allowing egress from our dying universe. This isn't a colony within an altered universe filled with so many bright stars it drowns out the darkness. We're not even living on the nano-scale on the surface of a neutron star. (Yeah, those are some of his actual novels.)
But we do have a truly Baxter novel of a far-future universal mind preserving *us* and some of our neighboring stars as their universe fades away.
Not that we know that within the text. Nope, we're actually explorers making it to a nearby dwarf star, Proxima, and settling upon a tidally-locked planet with very interesting alien life, and just below the surface, there's some rather interesting things going on. You know, like stargates and stuff. And let's not forget what we found on Mercury! Or the fact that our AIs are just a bit more effective and interesting than they really have a right to be. Or that whole timeline narratives sometimes get jolted in the proximity of those space-time useful bits we found on Mercury. No, no, let's forget about all that.
Because, after all, even if this is mostly a great exploration novel, it's also a huge chunk of an interplanetary politics novel right here at home that ramps up to have some rather fascinating and hard-hitting stupidness. Stupid on multiple levels. (Because all war is stupid. Especially when we're all just a part of some universal mind. :)
Seriously, I never should doubt this guy. I think this was pretty much a home run SF on the idea front.
The characters with a few caveats were all rather decent for Baxter, but I've never really expected all that much, so I am admitting that I am biased. :) I loved the exploration AI, though. No problems there. Intelligence is a function of curiosity, indeed. That core intelligence is practically dragging me to the next book in this SF all by itself.
Well, not really. I wanna soooo meet the far far future intelligence. :)
Like I said, home-run!
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