In the millennium’s last great sf novel, Stephen Baxter takes us a short step byond Y2K. The year is 2010. We have survived … so far.
Cornelius Taine of Eschatatology, Inc., mathematical genius, pursues the logic of our very existence to its inescapable end. In just 200 years our species will be wiped out. Taine’s prediction is expressed in the universal language of numbers. It is elegant, sublime, irrefutable. Even evacuation from Earth will not save us from extinction.
Reid Malenfant, entrepreneur, is single-handedly reinventing the US space program as private enterprise. His company, Bootstrap, has Big Dumb Boosters ready to fly from the California desert to mine a near-Earth asteroid for its mineral wealth – piloted by an enhanced squid named Sheena 5. Malenfant’s vision of mankind’s future in space is brutally cut short, but then Taine offers him the ultimate dream of saving the species.
Emma Stoney, Bootstrap’s financial controller and Malenfant’s ex-wife, is dismayed. Emma knows to what extremes Malenfant will go in pursuit of a dream. Taine is certain people of the future will try to communicate with us if there is any way to avoid the catastrophe. So, using a particle accelerator, Malenfant tunes in to Feynman’s Radio – interference in the background radiation of the Big Bang – and there he does indeed discover a message from the future! Soon, in response, Sheena the squid is flying to a different asteroid – Cruithne, Earth’s remote second moon – for very different reasons.
What Sheena 5 discovers on Cruithne is nothing less than a revelation: the secret reason for our existence visible at last beneath the rippled surface of time’s river. Malenfant and Emma find their own lives, and their love, irrevocably bound up with the wider destiny of humanity as the continuing Feynman Radio signals, washing down over us from the future, begin the ultimate transformation of mankind.