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15 of 16 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 11 months ago by Kate

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5 of 6 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 10 months ago by Davidson


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15 of 16 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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13 of 15 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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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 of 6 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
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fair read, but not a complete story within the one book, we have to wait for No.2, 30 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Proxima (Kindle Edition)
Publishers Note: This is the first book of a two part set. It is not complete within itself. Several plot lines will start but will not finish until the second book.

That's the note I rather think the publishers forgot to add to the blurb for this Stephen Baxter book. There is a good story in Proxima, there are also less good ones and some plot lines that, certainly in one case, are left hanging in space, unresolved and unexplained.

The story thread which follows the trials and tribulations of a group of settlers abandoned on a new planet is well imagined. More, it leaves enough unsaid in the early section that it gives you space to think through for yourself what you imagine would happen, then compare and contrast that with Baxter's story as it unfolds. It is a little leisurely and gently paced, but no less engaging for all that.

However the author wraps that story up within a number of sub-plots which are less well thought through and not as well carried off. In particular the plot device that serves to allow the settlers to return home is unconvincing - leaving this reader confused. Less Beginning->Middle->End and more Beginning->Middle->Eh?

Baxter's prose is as good as ever, creating reasonably hard sci-fi but remaining easily read can't be an easy trick to pull off. The characters however aren't consistent, their reactions/action morph to fit the plot rather than being consistent with the nature of the personalities we meet earlier in the story.

I guess if the author pulls all the threads together in book 2 he can be forgiven, but books written in a series tend, in my experience, not to get better as they go, but to start to wander, much like this review.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a great read and not his usual standard, 26 Nov 2013
By 
Robert (Uxbridge, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Proxima (Kindle Edition)
Baxter is the exemplar of hard science. Perhaps that is where this tale falls short, because the concept of conscripted colonists and exiled criminals being transported on quite expensive interstellar vessels falls at the first hurdle. At such a great distance from Earth you need a colony with resilience. Able to continue in the face of adversity. Not the dregs of society.

This has the effect of turning an extended starship voyage adventure into a slow episode of Prison Break. It had all the same characters.
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6 of 8 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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5.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking and Highly Recommended, 30 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Proxima (Kindle Edition)
I've been a big fan of Stephen Baxter for many years. Proxima represents a true return to form after the disappointing Long Earth series. This is proper hard SF, with an excellent plot, and good characterisation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very re-readable, 26 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Proxima (Kindle Edition)
Loved this book and faithful to Baxter ' s could be possible SF. Recommend this book to all Baxter fans
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Proxima by Stephen Baxter
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