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Phase Space (Manifold series) Hardcover – 5 Aug 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager; First Edition edition (5 Aug. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002257696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002257695
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 15.2 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,028,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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


‘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

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
"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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Format: Hardcover
According to "The Planetarium Hypothesis" we might live inside a "bubble"!
How could we really prove that the stars and galaxies, we see
on the night sky, aren't simulated on some great shell that
surrounds the entire solar system? A shell that simulates not only photons, but also such exotica as cosmis rays and neutrinos etc. ???
And beyond the shell lies the REAL universe.
A universe that we know absolutely nothing of! According to this "planetarium hypothesis".
The "controllers" might have created our little "zoo"
for the sanity of the human mind? Or they might be
fastforwarding humanity inside some exclusion zone,
to see how it turns out? Perhaps the universe
we know is some elaborate illusion that protects us from
a more fearful reality?

In acclaimed SF author Stephen Baxters book "Phase Space"
it all comes back to Fermi paradox: If the universe is filled
with life, why aren't the aliens here? Why don't we see them?
His heroes poke at the bubble and see if the walls
come crumbling down. If so they would rejoice. Finally, humans
would see the truth. The "controllers" from the outside finally
forced to reveal themselfes!!!
But there might be many kinds of bubbles though.
There could be a bubble of consciousness, where everything except
consciousness itself is fake. For all we know, even our bodies
might be simulated, so that the boundary of reality is drawn
around our very consciousness.
As always, Stephen Baxter is good! One exciting
idea swiftly follows the next and keeps the reader thoroughly entertained!
- Simon
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Format: Paperback
Stephen Baxter has tried to make the stories unusual. Unfortunately he tried so hard that they are all unusual in the same way and, once you have read the first few, you have read them all. There are basically two independent themes: the humanity's space exploration at current times and how it is hampered by superadvanced civilisations, and alien life forms existing in unlikely environments such as the primordial plasma immediately after the Big Bang. The style bears a strong hint of Arthur C. Clarke.
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