Proxima by Stephen Baxter

(9.2/10) Ambitious science fiction, both intriguing and thought provoking.

Book of the Year 2013 (see all)

"The very far future: The Galaxy is a drifting wreck of black holes, neutron stars, chill white dwarfs. The age of star formation is long past. Yet there is life here, feeding off the energies of the stellar remnants, and there is mind, a tremendous Galaxy-spanning intelligence each of whose thoughts lasts a hundred thousand years. And this mind cradles memories of a long-gone age when a more compact universe was full of light...

The 27th century: Proxima Centauri, an undistinguished red dwarf star, is the nearest star to our sun - and (in this fiction), the nearest to host a world, Proxima IV, habitable by humans. But Proxima IV is unlike Earth in many ways. Huddling close to the warmth, orbiting in weeks, it keeps one face to its parent star at all times. The 'substellar point', with the star forever overhead, is a blasted desert, and the 'antistellar point' on the far side is under an ice cap in perpetual darkness. How would it be to live on such a world?

Needle ships fall from Proxima IV's sky. Yuri Jones, with 1000 others, is about to find out...

Proxima tells the amazing tale of how we colonise a harsh new Eden, and the secret we find there that will change our role in the Universe for ever."

I found this an ambitious science fiction novel which was both intriguing and thought provoking. With its strong opinionated characters, exotic planet, and healthy helping of mystery, this had me hooked.

Yuri in particular was an enjoyable anti-hero, the archetypal fish out of water, who nonetheless manages to cope in very trying circumstances.

What makes this all enjoyable, is the way author Stephen Baxter manages to contrast the human flaws and concerns against the backdrop of technology and science. He makes the reader understand how small and insignificant we all are.

He also contrasts the densely populated colonies of Mars and Mercury and an array of space stations with the desolate, remote natural world of Proxima.
 
Underlying everything is the very primal struggle for survival. The colonists stranded on the planet go through a terrific ordeal which Baxter never trivializes or glosses over. This is a group with very human needs and opinions on how they cope. The ensuing debates and internal conflicts all convince.
 
This is a riveting novel, and for all its many dramatic plot strands, it holds up well, achieving a high level of gravitas. The future Cold War between the super powers of the UN and China resonate, as does the territorialism and competitiveness. Baxter has managed to create a plausible future, in fact, like a lot of great sci-fi writers, he could in fact be talking about our current world as much as his imagined future one.

Proxima by Stephen Baxter
Published 2013 by Gollancz

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2 positive reader review(s) for Proxima

15+

Proxima reader reviews

from England

Proxima was an enthralling novel. The way Baxter can create a new world with elements that make it real is stunning, interesting, thought provoking and the creativity and imagination he puts into the new planet is simply unbelievable. The characters have a depth to them and the pulling together of so many SF ideas made the novel very engaging.

from United States

This was my first Stephen Baxter book, and I have to say, it was one of the best SF novels I have read in a long time. Proxima has it all, from conscripted colonists, to a frontier exo planet, to colorful A I, to a sense of mystery, as well as well developed characters and realistic human relationships. I found this to be a very compelling read, a real page turner. I would highly recommend this book to all fans of hard ST and space opera. It has the effect of making one think about life in unique and original ways, and , like all really good SF, it expands our imagination and our outlook of the wotld.

9.7/10 from 3 reviews

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