Though supposedly the last volume of Clarke and Baxter's Time Odyssey series (after 2005's Sunstorm), this intriguing and frustrating installment of the high-octane space opera ends with an astounding cliffhanger just as humans have begun to confront the ancient and super-powerful Firstborn, who attack any species that might become a rival. Having barely survived a Firstborn-created solar flare, Earth now must cope with a meteor bomb approaching from deep space. Tensions rise between secretive, paranoid forces on Earth and equally suspicious groups among the Spacers, whose identification with humanity's home is waning. Meanwhile, in a pocket universe created by the Firstborn for some inscrutable purpose, slices from different Terran eons nervously adjust to each other. The narrative leaps about too much to develop characters, but Clarke has never been as interested in individuals as in humanity's ability to accept change as a species. It's too early to tell whether that theme will be enough to carry the story to a coherent conclusion. (Dec.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Ever since the appearance of the black monolith in 2001 (as detailed in Clarke's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey), humanity has been fascinated with the creatures they call the Firstborn, possessors of technology far more sophisticated than earthly scientists can even imagine. In 2064, an anomaly-an object traveling through space-destroys a deep-space monitor and continues on a trajectory that will impact Earth in 2072 unless steps are taken. The Firstborn have arrived. SF Grand Master Clarke and Locus Award winner Baxter bring their "Time Odyssey" (Time's Eye; Sunstorm) series to a close while leaving room for yet another phase of their saga. Most libraries should purchase.
Wrapping up the Time Odyssey trilogy-according to the publishers anyway. The book's contents speak otherwise. In Time's Eye (2004) one version of planet Earth was split into segments, then reassembled, with each segment from a different epoch. In Sunstorm (2005) another Earth defended itself against a gigantic solar flare. The enigmatic alien Firstborn, having caused both baffling events, intend to wipe out intelligent life, so that they can do-well, whatever it is they want to do, billions of years hence, without interference. This time, Sunstorm scientists note another object drifting toward Earth: a Q-bomb, a device powered by dark energy, peculiar stuff that (according to current real-world theories) powers the accelerating expansion of the universe. Athena, an artificial intelligence launched into space, finds a home, and reports back that Earth isn't the only planet to have suffered the aliens' malevolent attentions. Meanwhile, Bisesa Dutt, having survived on both Earths, wakes from a 19-year hibernation and hurries off to Mars, where scientists have discovered an Eye trapped in the polar ice by a Martian civilization billions of years ago. Bisesa has a curious affinity for the Eyes, enigmatic spheres by which means the Firstborn keep tabs on developments. The Eye sends her to Mir, the reassembled Earth, where a flabby, aging Alexander the Great is busy trying to conquer the patchwork planet. Various other characters wander about the cosmos, by space elevator, ion drive and whatever, each peregrination described in full scientific detail. Readable, but more science travelogue than science fiction-and if you were anticipating a conclusion, or at least an alien encounter, forget it.
From the Publisher
Praise for Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
“Clarke and Baxter have mastered the art of saving the world in blockbuster style.”
“An absolute must for science fiction fans.”
–All Things Considered
“Sure to blow your mind.”
“Wonderfully entertaining . . . a story that engrosses you with its dramatized ideas about the nature of existence.”
“A rousing adventure.”
–The New York Times Book Review
“A fast and engaging read.”
–Rocky Mountain News
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
It wasn’t like waking. It was a sudden emergence, a clash of cymbals. Her eyes gaped wide open, and were filled with dazzling light. She dragged deep breaths into her lungs, and gasped with the shock of selfhood.
Shock, yes. She shouldn’t be conscious. Something was wrong.
A pale shape swam in the air.
“No. No, Mum, it’s me.” That face came into focus a little more, and there was her daughter, that strong face, those clear blue eyes, those slightly heavy dark brows. There was something on her cheek, though, some kind of symbol. A tattoo?
“Myra?” She found her throat scratchy, her voice a husk. She had a dim sense, now, of lying on her back, of a room around her, of equipment and people just out of her field of view. “What went wrong?”
“Why wasn’t I put into estivation?”
Myra hesitated. “Mum—what date do you think it is?”
“2050. June fifth.”
“No. It’s 2069, Mum. February. Nineteen years later. The hibernation worked.” Now Bisesa saw strands of gray in Myra’s dark hair, wrinkles gathering around those sharp eyes. Myra said, “As you can see I took the long way round.”
It must be true. Bisesa had taken another vast, unlikely step on her personal odyssey through time. “Oh, my.”
Another face loomed over Bisesa.
“No. Doctor Heyer has long retired. My name is Doctor Stanton. We’re going to begin the full resanguination now. I’m afraid it’s going to hurt.”
Bisesa tried to lick her lips. “Why am I awake?” she asked, and she immediately answered her own question. “Oh. The Firstborn.” What could it be but them? “A new threat.”
Myra’s face crumpled with hurt. “You’ve been away for nineteen years. The first thing you ask about is the Firstborn. I’ll come see you when you’re fully revived.”
But Myra had gone.
The new doctor was right. It hurt. But Bisesa had once been a soldier in the British Army. She forced herself not to cry out.
From the Hardcover edition.