Fresh from his latest collaboration with Terry Pratchett on the Long Earth sequence Stephen Baxter now returns to the mysteries and challanges first hinted at in his acclaimed novel PROXIMA. In PROXIMA we discovered ancient alien artifacts on the planet of Per Ardua - hatches that allowed us to step across light years of space as if we were stepping into another room.
The universe opened up to us. Now in ULTIMA the consequences of this new freedom make themselves felt. And we discover that there are minds in the universe that are billions of years old and they have a plan for us.
For some of us. But as we learn the true nature of the universe we also discover that we have countless pasts all meeting in this present and that our future is terrifyingly finite.
It's time for us to fight to take back control. This is grand scale, big idea SF of the best possible sort.
It is set to build on the massive success of PROXIMA and define Stephen Baxter's work going forward.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 560 pages
- Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
- Publication Date: 27/11/2014
- Category: Science fiction
- ISBN: 9780575116870
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Review by iansales
The sequel to Proxima – did you see what he did there? Proxima: nearest; Ultima: furthest. Where the first was near-future sf, this one drags in Baxter’s other great interest, alternate history. It seems that the Hatches which allow for easy travel over interstellar distances (instantaneous for the traveller, but light-speed is not violated), also trigger “resets” of history – or shift the protagonists into alternate histories. In the first, the Roman Empire makes it into space but despite making use of “kernels” (magic energy wormhole-y type things) as a power source, it doesn’t appear to have progressed much beyond the first century CE. And then it’s an interstellar Aztec Empire, which also uses kernels and has built a giant fuck-off O’Neill cylinder but still runs pretty much along the same lines as it did when Cortés stumbled across Tenochtitlan. It’s quite an impressive sustained act of imagination, but not in the least bit plausible. The book also suffers from juvenile characterisation – a running joke involving a lead character, a grizzled Roman legionary – wears thin soon after the third mention but Baxter keeps it going right to the bitter end. There’s lots of clumsy exposition, and a central premise that doesn’t really convince. Baxter has done much better than this, and it all feels a bit by-the-numbers and banged out over a quick weekend. Disappointing.