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Gallancz hardcover £18
review by Steven Hampton
Britain's top hard-SF author turns his attention to nonfiction here, but this isn't some sort of physics textbook aimed at the layman. It's a catalogue of knowledge, current speculative thinking and visionary ideas about near and distant futures, exploring human hopes and mortal fears.
Balancing optimism and pessimism without making light of either viewpoint, Baxter turns to physics for solutions to the immense difficulties facing any effort to establish a permanent manned space station, bases on the Moon, a colony on Mars and remote settlements on the moons of gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn. The issue of interstellar journeys is more problematic. Baxter ponders the worrying question of whether we can ever hope to afford an infrastructure in space, let alone a self-sufficient starship. And yet, following the intriguing interview with aged astronaut/moonwalker Charlie Duke, we're reminded that the human drive to explore, if only out of simple curiosity, should carry us through anything that's likely to stand in our way.
Applying a genre novelist's powers of description to an array of grand concepts, thought experiments, and fantastic voyages of the mind, Baxter leads us to the faraway stars, the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, and the end of spacetime. All the while examining the possibilities of human, superhuman or distinctly nonhuman survival in the harshly cold realm of intergalactic space or dangerously close to black holes.
Not since Olaf Stapledon has anyone captured the immense potential of what may be. An inspired brainstorming book for young and old.
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