Vacuum Diagrams by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is some of the hardest of the hard SF out there. Staggering, even.
Let me back up. Baxter's hardest SF is several magnitudes harder than almost any SF author out there. His Xeelee Sequence novels are vast. I mean, we're dealing with an average of 5 million years worth of human evolution, galaxy crafting, and nearly unimaginable hugeness.
Stars' evolution are being sped up for the sake of Dark Matter alien civilizations and vast, inscrutable aliens of the baryonic universe (IE., us and those close to us) are fighting a losing battle against the quickening heat-death of the universe.
I remember my jaw dropping with the scope and how messed up the Ring was, a galaxy-sized superstring constructed around a naked black hole in order to punch a hole OUT of this universe because we can't defeat the truly alien aliens. And by we, I mean the Xeelee.
Humans are kinda idiots. But we have epic struggles and we change ourselves into very strange life, sometimes immortal, sometimes living on the crust of neutron stars, sometimes enslaved by other alien races, but usually always ten steps behind the Xeelee who just don't care about anyone else.
5 million years. That's a lot of amazing ideas jammed in here. Nanotech, physics discoveries, P complete theorems, black-hole quantum intelligences, spiders making webs between Pluto and Charon, deep sun explorers, living spaceship aliens, and truly vast wars and desperation.
And this novel is actually a future history made up of Baxter's short stories, all locked into the same worldbuilding. They're often centered around physics reveals, but there is also a ton of good character building going on, too.
The writing is sometimes not always the best I've ever read, but the sheer volume of ideas and mind-blowing events and situations more than makes up for that.
When I say I'm mind-blown, this is true after reading MOST of his other truly mind-blowing novels. The Xeelee sequence is simply... AMAZING. Wow. Wow. Wow. :)
It won't be for everyone. Not by along shot. But it is a definite must for fans of Cixin Liu or Peter Watts or Alaistair Reynolds. :) Robert L. Forward, too! Or David Brin! :)
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