cover image Space


Stephen Baxter. Del Rey Books, $24 (464pp) ISBN 978-0-345-43077-9

Former NASA astronaut Reid Malenfant returns to lead the vanguard for humanity's future in space in this deeply thought-provoking sequel to Manifold: Time. In the year 2020, America's space program has disintegrated, and the Japanese have colonized the moon. A young Japanese lunar scientist invites Malenfant to the moon for a consultation over mysterious sources of infrared she's discovered in the asteroid belt. A couple of enterprising engineers send the first probe to the asteroids to find out just what's there, only to have their probe swallowed up by a huge, artificial ship. Years later Malenfant mounts his own expedition to the solar focus of Alpha Centauri, where he finds a teleport gateway leading to a race of self-duplicating robots that humans eventually call the Gaijin. Centuries pass before Malenfant begins to understand the realities that underlie the existence of all life in the universe. Philip K. Dick Award-winner Baxter packs his gigantic odyssey with innovative hypotheses, fascinating explanations of complex scientific phenomena and gorgeous descriptions of spaceships. That the novel covers far more territory, both in time and distance, than any one person could ever absorb is both a strength and a weakness; suspense is difficult to maintain over the course of centuries. While a large cast of characters helps generate this unwieldy scenario, only their scientific motivations are explored. Science itself is very clearly the star player on this stage. Nonetheless, this focus allows for an exceptionally intricate and original view of the future that both scientists and lay enthusiasts will enjoy. (Jan.) Forecast: Manifold: Time was nominated for the 2000 Arthur C. Clarke Award. This one could garner its own nominations--with a consequent boost in sales for both titles.