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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly superb - a masterpiece that I urge you to read
Earth is in trouble, the centre (in a manner of speaking) of a solar system divided between the west and China. While China mines the resources of the asteroid belt and the more distant planets, the west colonises the closer planets. But when a new energy source is discovered on Mercury that permits interstellar travel the enormous opportunities that this grants to one...
Published 19 months ago by Kate

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A curate's egg
Baxter's having some fun here - and I think that he often does. The world-building is clever, and the alien "Builders" are obviously inspired by Theo Jansen's "Strandbeests". However, it is a bit of a muddle - he's got too many ideas and they tend to tear the novel apart. It may make more sense once the second novel of the pair is published. The main...
Published 19 months ago by Davidson


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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly superb - a masterpiece that I urge you to read, 17 Oct. 2013
By 
Kate (Oxford, Oxon United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Proxima (Paperback)
Earth is in trouble, the centre (in a manner of speaking) of a solar system divided between the west and China. While China mines the resources of the asteroid belt and the more distant planets, the west colonises the closer planets. But when a new energy source is discovered on Mercury that permits interstellar travel the enormous opportunities that this grants to one faction are matched by the danger of the ensuing intensified cold war. Meanwhile, a ship full of rejects from Earth and Mars uses this new technology to reach Proxima Centauri, our nearest habitable planet, four light years away. Their goal is to settle the planet and do the necessary hard work of establishing a basic social infrastructure before others can ultimately join them to reap the benefits. Their main job, though, is to breed - to create new generations of human beings on a new Earth. To start all over again.

This is the goal and the dream but how different and harrowing is the reality.

Proxima Centauri, or Per Ardua as it is named by its reluctant, marooned first colonists, is a planet fixed on its axis, half always dark and the other half always light. It is also a volcanic world, susceptible to extreme weather patterns that can last for years. It is inhabited by a full spectrum of flying, swimming, walking creatures, all stem-like. They manage the environment as our colonists must also learn to do. The first half of the novel focuses in wonderful, leisurely detail on the trials of settling this planet by small groups of men and women, cast out from Earth, abandoned and forced together. In particular, we follow Yuri Eden, Mardina and their robot help ColU. I could have read many more hundreds of pages on this group and their interaction with the local animals and this fascinating planet. In some ways, I was reminded of Dark Eden by Chris Beckett, one of my most memorable reads of 2012. I was similarly engrossed by the details and feel of this alien world.

But there is even more to Proxima than this. There is a heroine in the story and she is Stef Kalinski. Stef becomes an ambassador of sorts, working to bridge the gap between the opposing factions on earth while also exploring the origins of the mysterious energy source on Mercury. It is she who is first to discover one of the great secrets of our existence. What she discovers is mindblowing. But just as intriguing as her role in the present and future of the story, is Stef's background. She was there when her father launched a vessel travelling by more traditional means to Proxima Centauri, many years before. The tale of this starship Angelia is not something I will forget. Again, I would have read a novel on this alone.

The relationship between Earth and Per Ardua is complicated, made more so by the distance between them. But even while Per Ardua seems such a distant, unpopulated planet, it becomes frighteningly apparent that the dangers facing Earth won't stay far away forever. The tension builds as the Galaxy appears to almost contract with the danger facing it.

Proxima is a novel that almost overflows with wonders. It contains not just one story but several. It takes place on Proxima Centauri but also on Earth, Mercury and in the distant asteroid mining settlements. The lives we encounter over a considerable number of years become increasingly important to the reader. Looming over all the personal tales of hardship and endeavour and love is the terrifying cold shadow of potential war between east and west which, if it comes to pass, could mean nothing less than the extinction of the human race.

I am a big fan of Stephen Baxter and have been reading him for years. I was, then, expecting to enjoy Proxima, a novel I've looked forward to for quite a while, but I was not expecting to be as blown away by it as I was. As we approach the latter months of the year, if I read another novel in 2013 that makes and leaves such a powerful impression on me, I will be most surprised. When I finished it, I was left in awe of Baxter's skill in weaving the strands of Proxima together.

The writing is elegant, informative, exact and visionary. It has scenes that took this reader's breath away. The characters are always interesting - even the original AIs and especially the ColU robotic unit. Proxima is so full of surprises that it never releases its grip. It is packed with `wow' moments and there are other moments which made me weep with how perfect or profound they felt to me. This was not an emotion-free reading experience. I can only urge you to read it so that you discover this for yourself. Proxima is a masterpiece.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Top Notch Sci-Fi, 7 Oct. 2013
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Proxima (Hardcover)
Having read the authors previous release with Terry Pratchett, I had to say I was a little apprehensive about picking up this title. After all when you've felt rather short changed by a book by two literary giants, you really do wonder if they've run out of idea's and are just cashing in on their own names to make a few extra bucks. So with that said, I didn't quite get round to this book as soon as I should have done.

And boy, what a mistake that was. This title is pure classic Science Fiction bringing together a lot of the themes that have gone before and combining it in such as a way that we have to look at our own nature before we can think about condemning what else is out there. It's a book of questions, a book of exploration and above all a book that really takes the reader on a journey whilst opening up the universe to something else to follow on a bigger scale.

Add to the mix some great twists, some wonderful turns of phrase and its definitely a book that has moved Stephen back into my read with confidence list.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun and realistic interstellar adventure!, 8 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Proxima (Paperback)
Stephen Baxter's novels are always very readable and full of believable science and technology. Baxter clearly draws on a lot of history for inspiration for this tale of interplanetary exploration and colonisation. The press ganging of various waifs and strays into being colonists reminds you of the forced transport of convicts to Australia. The struggle of the early colonists just to survive with next to no facilities reminds you of tales of the early New World colonies. The way the groups of settlers banded together to try and make something work was told. Having studied some planetary science I can confirm that Baxter's planet is very plausible. Good science. I liked the aliens as well who were genuinely alien but also recognisable as a fellow sentient species.

I thought the main weakness was the characters who were all a bit bland (even the main antagonist Yuri Eden) except for the automated colonisation unit ColU who was interested in everything and constantly waffled on a bit like Star Trek's Data. I want one!! I also didn't like the stuff in our future solar system, China vs the rest, seemed plausible but I just didn't enjoy the politics. I felt that he could have left the Earth and its troubles behind once the colonists had landed.

Overall though I really enjoyed the novel and found it to be a bit of a page turner. He's left it open for a sequel so we shall see what's next.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A curate's egg, 25 Oct. 2013
By 
Davidson (Wellington, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Proxima (Hardcover)
Baxter's having some fun here - and I think that he often does. The world-building is clever, and the alien "Builders" are obviously inspired by Theo Jansen's "Strandbeests". However, it is a bit of a muddle - he's got too many ideas and they tend to tear the novel apart. It may make more sense once the second novel of the pair is published. The main protagonist is a cypher and one can't really attach oneself to him - ultimately, I found the robot, ColU, by far the most interesting character and the one I wanted to follow, even though it was clearly there most of the time simply to provide exposition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor writing, silly plot, ludicrous ending, 26 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: Proxima (Kindle Edition)
Oh dear. Now I know where the stilted characters come from the in the Long Earth series with Terry Pratchett.
Firstly, the plot: As others have said, the basic idea of incredibly expensive and sophiticated space craft carrying convicts and the dregs of society to colonise a new world is ridiculous. At least one other plot line fizzles out entirely.
The science: The planet seems to be about the size of a county, judging by the colonists all meeting up and walking quarter of the way round at a snail's pace. I also rather doubt the climate and the 'absolute stablity' of the orbit.
The pacing: I had to skip read several extremely boring back stories to keep going - but did keep going (hence 2 stars).
The characters were beyond one dimensional - the women in particular, not only didn't change at all througout the decades of the book, but didn't even change their mood!! Appalling.
Spolier alert: the ending is so ludicorus I shan't bother reading any more Stephen Baxter.

There is good SF out there still: Ann Leckie, Neal Asher, Iain M Banks, Simon Mordem, Peter Hamilton not to mention the classics. Don't waste your time on this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sci-Fi as it should be, 26 May 2014
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This review is from: Proxima (Kindle Edition)
Stephen Baxter is back to doing what he does best - writing good, thought-provoking science fiction.
I loved the Xeelee sequence and the Time/Space books and tried to read all of Baxters stories. Sadley, he lost my interest with the Floods and mammoths but now with Proxima, it seems the he is back to his roots and writing the kind of classic hard sci-fi that got my interest in the first place.
I hope this isn't a one off and that we can now expect more like this.
I would strongly recommend this book to anyone like me that enjoyed his older works. I can't rate it highly enough.

If I had to choose a negative just to balance things out, then I would say that maybe in the appendix we could have had a translation of the latin paragraph that appears toward the end of the book. I had to type it in to Google Translate to get an approximate meaning and it made a HUGE difference to how I perceived the end of the story. I'm sure not everyone will do the same and will miss out! I would urge everyone that doesn't speak Latin, to do what I did. It's a little annoying typing a paragraph of Latin but it does make a difference to the story.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Like a comic strip, 31 Oct. 2013
By 
P. Horth - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Proxima (Hardcover)
Well, maybe it's me but I was deeply disappointed with this book. The line of the story and the various events and actions were like something out of a comic strip - and the dialogue would have easily fitted into word balloons in Dan Dare. You could never say that about Iain Banks, who will be greatly missed. I was irritated by the way the same few characters kept miraculously crossing paths, time and again, over a timespan of decades, and when they did they interacted like sulky teenagers who had never been separated. The political backdrop was too contrived, verging on the preposterous (even making allowance for this being SF!). I couldn't buy into the idea that Earth's first interstellar colonisation, with all its effort and investment, would be left to the chance activities of a bunch of outcasts and misfits.
Whenever a scene changed there would be pages of description of spacecraft interiors, bathroom furnishings, habitat layouts etc which had to be skipped before I died of boredom. An editor could have taken a chainsaw to these parts.

Perhaps these are not fair criticisms of a segment of SF and narrative features which many readers enjoy, but that's how I found it. One credit though - there was no faster-than-light travel involved, a device too easily used to string together weak narratives.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars entertaining, 25 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Proxima (Kindle Edition)
Good read, not as hard sci if as it could of been, but defiantly lays the groundwork for future work in this novel line
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stephen Baxter Back on Top Form, 23 April 2015
This review is from: Proxima (Paperback)
I used to read a lot of Stephen Baxter's books, and was particularly fond of his Xeelee series, but some of his later books I wasn't as keen on so not read any of his for a few years. This caught my eye because it is proper science fiction set in the future (he's written quite a few quasi-historical sf novels which I'm not always as keen on).

There are two plots two the book. The main one is about a small group of colonists who are basically deported from the solar system and abandoned on a world around the giant star Proxima Centauri as part of a hands off colonization effort (the authorities hope they'll breed and develop a colony outpost without them having to do anything much). The second plot is set in the Solar System and is about a futuristic Cold War between the Chinese and the United Nations. There are colonies on Mars, Mercury, the moon and one or two asteroids so it is not just about Earth. Oh and its the late 22nd century just in case you were wondering.

One of the really interesting things about this book is the colony planet Per Ardua, as it is christened, around Proxima Centauri. This is a so called 'exo-planet' similar to one of the hundreds that astronomers have discovered over the last few years. It is much larger than Earth, the planet is stationery around its star so one side is in permanent daylight, the other in permanent night. The topography, terrain and climate of the planet is very different from Earth - it shows Stephen Baxter's creative imagination as well as his scientific background.

I really enjoyed this book and it felt like Stephen Baxter is back to his best. It is imaginative, but plausible. The world of Per Ardua, and the general setup in the solar system is very interesting and well conceived. The plot is good, and the characters are decent too.

After reading, I skimmed through a few of the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. It generally gets favourable opinion, but with a few criticisms. I thought I'd give my take on these.

Blurb doesn't match the book - apparently there were some problems with an initial description, but my copy was fine. It did talk about billion year old secrets and galactic threats, though all you get of these is hints towards the end. I guess this will be picked up in book 2.

Too much like a Dan Dare comic strip - I don't see the problem with this. Yes it has some action in it, but this is well balanced by the other elements in what is a really well rounded novel.

'The bad guys were paper mache who melted when given a good talking to' - this one they may have a point with, I'm struggling to think of any real bad guys/gals/aliens, and the ones there were did just disappear far too quick. But this didn't seem like a problem at the time, and if anything the environment on Per Ardua was the enemy.

Overall, if you like your science fiction to be plausible with a good plot, great world building & dark hints of cosmic danger, then I really recommend this book. If you enjoyed any of Baxter's early books, you should enjoy this.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining and convincing sci-fi, 25 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Proxima (Paperback)
I found this an ambitious science fiction novel which was both intriguing and thought provoking. With its strong opinionated characters, exotic planet, and healthy helping of mystery, this had me hooked.

Yuri in particular was an enjoyable anti-hero, the archetypal fish out of water, who nonetheless manages to cope in very trying circumstances.

What makes this all enjoyable, is the way author Stephen Baxter manages to contrast the human flaws and concerns against the backdrop of technology and science. He makes the reader understand how small and insignificant we all are.

He also contrasts the densely populated colonies of Mars and Mercury and an array of space stations with the desolate, remote natural world of Proxima.

Underlying everything is the very primal struggle for survival. The colonists stranded on the planet go through a terrific ordeal which Baxter never trivializes or glosses over. This is a group with very human needs and opinions on how they cope. The ensuing debates and internal conflicts all convince.

This is a riveting novel, and for all its many dramatic plot strands, it holds up well, achieving a high level of gravitas. The future Cold War between the super powers of the UN and China resonate, as does the territorialism and competitiveness. Baxter has managed to create a plausible future, in fact, like a lot of great sci-fi writers, he could in fact be talking about our current world as much as his imagined future one.
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