Baxter’s future history, known as the Xeelee sequence, is an exemplar of the form: it comprises his first four novels, Raft, Timelike Infinity, Flux and Ring, and these marvellous linked stories.
The stories are like pearls on the timeline of the sequence, which stretches from the formation of life in the quagma to the virtual extinction of baryonic life in this universe. Owners of the universe, the Xeelee, first contact photino birds at the beginning, then flee them at the end, having modified their own evolutionary history in a failed attempt to defeat the birds, creatures of dark matter. They flee through the eponymous Ring of exotic matter, and some humans will follow them.
Baxter’s magnificent, mind-boggling ideas infuse the stories with enduring meaning and bring with them a sense of perspective married to wonder to be found nowhere else. There are new and amazing facets of the future here, and the reader can also once more spend time with Michael Poole, the wormhole technology genius from Timelike Infinity; with the wonderful Lieserl, modified human being inhabiting the sun; with the microscopic humans of the world of Flux; with the aliens threatening earth, Sqeeum, Qax, photino birds; above all, with the Xeelee.