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Phase Space [Paperback]

Stephen Baxter
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
Price: 14.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

10 Dec 2010

Tied in to Baxter’s masterful Manifold trilogy, these thematically linked stories are drawn from the vast graph of possibilities across which the lives of hero Reid Malenfant have been scattered.

It is the year 2025. Reid Malenfant is the commander of a NASA earth-orbiting science platform. The platform is intended to probe the planets of the nearest star system by bouncing laser pulses off them. But no echoes are returned… and Malenfant’s reality begins to crumble around him. Huddling with his family, awaiting the end – or an unknown new beginning – Malenfant tells stories of other possibilities, other realities.

The linked stories encompass the myriad possibilities that might govern our relationship with the universe: are we truly alone, or will we eventually meet other lifeforms? Perhaps intelligent species decide to turn their back on the stars, or maybe expansionist species are destined to fail. The final possibility – that the Universe as we know it is in fact an elaborate illusion designed to protect us from the fearful reality – is brilliantly explored in the tour de force novella that ends the volume.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager; New Ed edition (10 Dec 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006511856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006511854
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 10.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 457,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Baxter is the pre-eminent SF writer of his generation. Published around the world he has also won major awards in the UK, US, Germany, and Japan. Born in 1957 he has degrees from Cambridge and Southampton. He lives in Northumberland with his wife.

Here are the Destiny's Children novels in series order:


Time's Tapestry novels in series order:

Navigator Weaver

Flood novels:


Time Odyssey series (with Arthur C Clarke):

Time's Eye

Manifold series:

Phase Space

Mammoth series:

Mammoth (aka Silverhair)
Long Tusk
Ice Bones

NASA trilogy:


Xeelee sequence:

Timelike Infinity
Vacuum Diagrams (linked short stories)
The Xeelee Omnibus (Raft, Timelike Infinity, Flux, Ring)

The Web series for Young Adults:


Coming in 2010:

Stone Spring - book one of the Northland series

Product Description

Amazon Review

Phase Space is a collection of 25 SF stories by Stephen Baxter, many thematically linked to his "Manifold" trilogy (Time, Space and Origin) and other novels of cosmic scope.

"The phase space of a system is the set of all conceivable states of that system," says the first page. As with "Manifold" these stories explore possible (and significantly linked) states of Earth and the universe, alternate timelines offering different solutions to Baxter's favourite cosmological question--the Fermi Paradox.

It's a simple idea. According to our best scientific theories there's nothing special about Earth or the Solar System. Intelligent life has evolved here--ourselves. It's likely to evolve elsewhere. The skies should be full of other intelligences. Where are they?

Perhaps our theories are wrong and we're in a galactic quarantine. Perhaps what we see through our telescopes is a clever fake--but supposing we overload the capabilities of the fakers? Maybe intelligence always destroys itself before crossing interstellar space, or something kindly takes emerging life away to a safer place. Perhaps there's teeming intelligence out there, but we're not listening on the right wavelength. Perhaps they're hiding...?

Another Baxter theme revisited again in this mind-stretching collection is the high-tech romance of the space programme and walking on the Moon. Alternate histories of space exploration are deftly conjured up, some of them wonderfully paranoid. Yet another theme is deep time--the unthinkable gulf from Big Bang to the final extinction of the universe and possibilities of life at both extremes.

Baxter at his best has a bleakly lyrical view of the remote future, reminiscent of Arthur C Clarke. There are homages to other classics, including Asimov's "Nightfall" and even Dante's Divine Comedy whose final vision of paradise takes on a highly unexpected SF meaning. --David Langford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


‘Baxter is taking basic sf ideas and rebuilding them based on current science, technology and politics – a tried and true method sor sf writers but no less effective for that. Baxter apparently has the ambition and the energy to reinvigorate hard sf all by himself’
Locus on Space

‘Like all good sf, Space provokes questions. What kind of species are we?… the other reason Space works well is that Baxter is a good writer… his format and style are assured and keep you happily suspended and engrossed. Right up to the satisfyingly vertiginous climax… Malenfant is one of sf’s more memorable characters’

‘Pacy, visionary, extravagantly imagined, Time places Baxter firmly in the tradition of Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. How reassuring to know that while so many authors are lying in the gutter of the information superhighway, someone at least is still looking at the stars’
The Times

‘Time is a big ambitious book… science fiction at its best’

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Review of Stephen Baxter's 'Phase Space' 29 Nov 2003
Complementing his ‘Manifold’ series of novels – 'Time', 'Space' and 'Origin' – Stephen Baxter has put together 'Phase Space'; a collection of loosely-connected stories exploring the themes of human consciousness, our place in the Universe and our perception of reality. Tied together by excerpts from the Manifold-based story 'Touching Centauri', the collection is split into six sections, of which 'Paradox' is arguably the best. Apparently fascinated by the ‘Fermi Paradox’ concerning extra-terrestrial intelligence (summed up by the oft-quoted line “If they existed, they would be here”), Baxter speculates on possible solutions to the problem in this section, and the results are often absorbing.
Weakest of the six sections is, in my view, 'Worlds', in which stories become bogged down in repetitive detail concerning the space programmes of this and other worlds. Tales in 'Worlds' and 'Open Loops' often reach conclusions which are too obscure for readers to reasonably be expected to untangle, and suffer for this. That having been said, one of the most mind-bending stories – 'Dante Dreams' – is also one of the best for its originality and profound ideas.
'Phase Space' is by no means Baxter’s finest work, especially as the similarity of some stories and repetitiveness of ideas can take the edge off the writing, but it still provides entertaining, thought-provoking reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought 27 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Some fantastic ideas and narratives as ever from Britain's best Sci Fi writer. Really gets you thinking about life, the universe and everything
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5.0 out of 5 stars A real page-turner! 26 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
A superb book which entertains, and lingers in the memory for a long time. Can't wait to read more by this author.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Alternate earth realities. 25 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What ifs and what if not. The crossroad dilemma.
One can't choose one's destiny... or can one?
Last in the series.
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"Phase Space" by Stephen Baxter is a collection of 25 loosely-related short stories linked to - and expanding on themes introduced in - his Manifold novel trilogy of "Time", "Space" and "Origin". At its heart is the question posed by the physicist Enrico Fermi: given that the universe is billions of years old, if life exists out in the cosmos, why don't we see the evidence of it all about us? These stories represent the author's attempts to try to make sense of this paradox.

Pieces such as 'Open Loops', 'Sun-Cloud', 'The We Who Sing' and 'The Gravity Mine' explore the idea that other forms of intelligent life might exist or once have existed out in the cosmos. Baxter takes various scenarios, from the distant past - a mere few hundred thousand years post-Big Bang - to the distant future - trillions of years from now, when the universe is cold and dark - and supposes various alien civilisations, each of them coming to terms with their world and each of them with their own versions of the Fermi Paradox.

One of Baxter's favourite themes is space exploration and it is no accident that many of the stories take astronauts as their main characters: including 'Poyekhali 3201', an imagining of Yuri Gagarin's experience as the first man in space. One of the best stories in the collection is 'War Birds', in which the Cold War has escalated into space and the Shuttle fleet has fallen under the control of USAF, becoming an agent of destruction for a militaristic US government intent on demonstrating its capabilities to the rest of the world.

As interesting as such alternate histories are, however, they are unrelated to the main theme of the collection.
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