Vacuum Diagrams (Xeelee Sequence) Mass Market Paperback – 1 Apr 2001
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"One of the best in science fiction."-- "Science Fiction Chronicle""An epic of struggle and success."-- Don D'Ammassa, "Cleveland Plain Dealer""Enormously impressive."-- "Locus""Mind-stretching science fiction at its boldest."-- "Orlando Sentinel"
From the Back Cover
THE XEELEE SEQUENCE
Stephen Baxter’s history of the universe
While the human race struggles against alien oppressors, an even greater epic battle rages between the deadly dark-matter photino birds and their implacable enemy, the Xeelee …
These marvellous linked stories bring Baxter’s widely praised future history to the door at the end of time and space … which has been opened by the fabulous Xeelee, the ultimate sentient beings, the most astonishing engineers of all time.
“Baxter sends into free-fall the most awesome ideas in science fiction today”
“ … the reaction is that which C.S. Lewis referred to when he described science fiction as the only genuine consciousness expanding drug”
“A fine and important collection”
“A luminous collection … Baxter can overwhelm you with a traditional SF ‘sense of wonder’ until your jaw drops”
“This book’s depth almost produces vertigo – a classic in the making”
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Top customer reviews
The stories themselves are mostly enjoyable, although Baxter’s problems with shoehorning in hard sf exposition with storytelling are often evident. Its also noticeable how Baxter’s earlier tales are much more light-hearted than his later, more confident work. A number of the stories also seem to be either direct or subtle lifts from his novels, (eg; Stowaway is a direct extract from Raft, while Hero takes an incident from Flux and retells it with a different spin), though its difficult to tell if these were short stories that were later developed into novels, or cynical reworking to sell the same idea twice. The quality remains high though, so even when a tale such as The Baryonic Lords is obviously just a dry-run of the novel Ring, its still enjoyable stuff. Possibly the biggest criticism of the collection is the lack of range of the stories, most concentrating in a rather narrow band of classic hard sf ‘new invention/discovery’ format.
All in all though, if you are only going to read one of Baxter’s Xeelee novels, this should be the one.
I confess I have found some of his books pretty hard going (Raft, Flux etc) but this is much more digestible, a lot more fun and you don't need a Phd in quantum mechanics to enjoy it.
Ignoring the downbeat themes which seem to be a feature of this view of the far future, there aren't a lot of laughs in this version of mankind's destiny, it suffers from poor characterisation and a tendency to show wonders reflected only through the eyes of his rather badly drawn characters.
There is also a shed load of physics to plough through. If I wanted to read a book about quantum mechanics I'd buy one.
All in all I found it a touch unsatisfying, but I'm going to give some more of the Xeelee stories a chance because the characterisations are supposed to be better.
A brilliant finish to a masterful series that transcends time and space. Every book in the sequence I have read in one sitting. If you only ever read two series of Sci-Fi this has to be one of them (the other woudl be the Mars trology by Kim Stanley Robbinson). If this book doesn't make you question the natuer of the Universe and existence in other planes then you havn't been reading it.
Buy this and read.
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