I try to read most books without reading the synopsis first, it is more fun discovering the story that way, but for Stephen Baxter’s books this never work out. Baxter has an immense imagination backed by a profound knowledge of science. He is also quite a good storyteller, definitely an ideal combo for writing hard sci-fi… but! I suspect he may find it difficult to conceive how little the layman understand scientific principles that he takes for granted. I imagine he hasn’t been a layman since the age of five or something.
The setting for Flux
is even weirder than [b:Raft|100680|Raft (Xelee Sequence, #1)|Stephen Baxter|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1171468835s/100680.jpg|829085], the book is set on a neutron star where microscopic genetically engineered “humans” live in the star’s mantle. These people do not walk around, they move by “Waving” a sort of swimming on magnetic field lines. If I understand correctly there is no gravity as such so nothing ever fall in this book and the concepts of up and down is not as we would experience it. The “humans” do not see, hear, breathe or taste as we do. I don’t really know enough science to explain any of this I am sorry to say. (Hopefully I will some help in the comments).
I have read thousands of science fiction books but I don’t think have read one set on a star before (as opposed to a planet). I had to google stuff about core, mantle and crust to have a better idea of the setting. If your knowledge of science (especially physics) is as limited as mine but you still want to read this book then I suggest you read the synopsis first (on the back of the book, or on Goodreads, Amazon etc.), even then don’t worry too much about understanding the science just let Mr. Baxter tells his story and things will gradually become clearer.
The funny thing is the plot of this book is quite simple to follow. The main theme is basically a struggle to survive and the story eventually becomes about a character’s attempt to save the world (which is a star, not a planet). In contrast to the science the characters’ motivations are extremely easy to understand, this makes it fairly easy to follow the plot.
There is quite a lot of neologism in this book, the odd thing is that they are common words with the first letter capitalized, like Air, Wave, Human Beings etc. The author clearly wants the reader to infer the meanings of these words through the narrative, I have only been partially successful.
Dialog, prose style and characterization are clearly not Baxter’s strong points. The great [a:Arthur C. Clarke|7779|Arthur C. Clarke|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1357191481p2/7779.jpg] had the same weaknesses, except he explained the science behind his fiction much more accessibly in my opinion. That said I think Baxter is a little (not a lot) more successful with character development. These are not wonderful, complex and believable characters you get in a Tolstoy novel but the few central characters are amiable enough. As for the damn Xeelee aliens once again they barely show up, considering Flux
is part of the Xeelee Sequence
they tend be play very hard to get!
Any way, massively impressive world building backed by real science, likable characters and a good story. Fans of hard sci-fi should enjoy this, especially if their grounding in science is up to snuff. As for me, I quite like it!
So ends my last review of the four volumes from my copy of the Xeelee
omnibus edition. Over all it has been a fun if often incomprehensible ride (on the scientific side). There are several other volumes outside of this omnibus in the full Xeelee Sequence
which I will probably catch up with sooner or later.