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Customer reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 14 April 2017
I loved the idea of the science and how the story builds. The clever part for me was the difficulty in populating a new planet, and then the hatches, and Earthshine. The wars were something else, but that's humans for you. I have left a review of the next book as well. I considered not buying Ultima because of the reviews and it was a bit wordy and a lot of it was uneccesary, but I just needed to know what the ending was like.
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on 21 August 2017
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on 28 June 2017
Book arrived as described within time.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 October 2013
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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on 5 December 2013
This was hard work. The man doesn't apear to be able to write something in a paragraph if he can get at least 20 pages out of it! Good story. Hard slog. Not for me.
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on 13 January 2016
Post, pre, or slap-in-the-middle-of apocalypse novels suggest there might be some excitement – not in this book. Baxter has such a humourless, pitiable view on the future of humanity that it makes it impossible to read his flat, joylessly pessimistic writings – do you think he’s ever told a joke in his life? The best thing I can say is that this isn’t one of those maladroit, self-published tales we have to struggle through, although like those lumpen scratchings, there are 2 more books in this trilogy that I, for one, won’t be reading.
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Trudged through - much like the characters and plot - long journey with sparse detail, paper thin characterisation and promise of a story worth telling. Never actually happened - a bit like reading the foreword to a novel rather than a novel. Read something else.......... really - you'll not have this time again
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on 27 August 2017
Hardly the sweeping canvas and literary marvel the critics raved of, some of it is very clever, some of it is very stupid, but the key - the inevitable discovery of which it would be and was predictable in the extreme, a weak and disappointing nothingness. Some of the characters feel dead, others highly believable and animated. The basis of the China v everyone conflict is also far from new, I remember playing board games and even early sci-fi computer games with that concept 30-40 years ago. My biggest dislike is that the book does a remarkable job of following the colonists lives and movements, seems to be going in another direction that was frankly really interesting, but the inevitable happens it goes down hill from there. Just another mediocre sci-fi tale with good publicity from an established author, who still needs to point out he worked with Terry Pratchett.
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on 29 October 2017
I recently rented this book from my library as I am fascinated by evolutionary world building and astrobiology and I am always intrigued to see what worlds sci-fi authors can conjure up. The initial premise of this book was that Yuri Eden, a man out of his time after being cryogenically frozen and sent to live on Mars, is one of a group of people who are rounded up and sent to Proxima C, an exoplanet orbiting a dwarf star, however the story rapidly becomes more complex than that. Alternating chapters follow Stef Kalinski as she works on Mercury researching a fuel source that is used in spaceships. Something happens partway through the book that makes you question Stef's believability as a narrator vs the prospect of an omniscient source causes multiverses (think the same sort of omniscient presence as 2001: A Space Odyssey).

I really enjoyed this book, I enjoyed reading about the colonists of Per Ardua and felt it was realistic in how doomed the whole operation seemed from the beginning as well as the fatalistic outlook that eventually fell upon all of the colonists. Towards the end it felt very rushed as thought Baxter didn't have enough time to get all of his plot points together whilst the initial half was a very long drawn out part of the novel. I feel like the pace of it could have been more consistent and for that I have given it only four stars. I was left at the end feeling as if there were a lot of plot points that hadn't been answered and was left very confused by the last chapter but then to my delight found that there is a sequel so I will be diving into that as soon as I've reserved it from the library.
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on 26 May 2014
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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