As he did in Raft, Baxter plays with an idea in this novel. Heavily modified humans have colonized the mantle of a neutron star. The micro story taking up most of the novel is rather pedestrian, but the setting is magnificent. The macro story is about the fulfillment of a long lost purpose. Fun idea but not such a fun read.
This is probably the most important novel in the “early Baxter” books of the Xeelee sequence. Michael Poole has opened the universe to mankind with his wormholes. We are introduced to Lieserl, humanity’s sentient probe inside our sun. GUTships ride to the very edge of space and time. One of them carries, ark-like, the seed of humanity. Thousands of subjective years later, it arrives at the Ring, a classic BDO (Big Dumb Object) constructed as an escape hatch from the impending destruction of our universe. Big stuff, and Baxter makes it look easy. The message of hope and the importance of Life expressed here are, I think, Baxter’s greatest hallmarks. A fascinating novel indeed.
In this important book in Baxter’s Xeelee sequence, Michael Poole, architect of a tunnel through time, must confront what happens when the tunnel ends in a time when humanity is enslaved. Be prepared to stretch those physics and existential synapses in your brain to the limit. If you are not really into hard SciFi, you should probably give this one a pass.
Baxter always thinks big, but his stories often revolve around small communities on the edge of the main action in his universe(s). Raft is about such a human community living in a universe where gravity is much stronger than in our universe. The ancestors of the community somehow crossed over into this universe about five hundred years prior to the action. It is a solid story of courage and determination, and the need to face one’s destiny.