Science Fiction Chronicle
Manifold: Time (Manifold Series #1)by Stephen Baxter
Stephen Baxter's Manifold novels have struck the world of science fiction like a meteor. Heralded by Arthur Clark as “a major new talent,” Baxter stands time and space on their collective heads, envisions the future reflected in the past, and the past in the galaxy's most distant reaches and unformed speculations.See more details below
Stephen Baxter's Manifold novels have struck the world of science fiction like a meteor. Heralded by Arthur Clark as “a major new talent,” Baxter stands time and space on their collective heads, envisions the future reflected in the past, and the past in the galaxy's most distant reaches and unformed speculations.
Science Fiction Chronicle
Science fiction Age
The New York Review of Science Fiction
"REMARKABLE . . . INTRIGUING . . . FAST-PACED."
The Washington Post
"Reading Manifold: Time is like sending your mind to the gym for a brisk workout. If you don't feel both exhausted and exhilarated when you're done, you haven't been working hard enough."
The New York Times Book Review
"A STAGGERING NOVEL! If you ever thought you understood time, you'll be quickly disillusioned when you read Manifold: Time."
SIR ARTHUR C. CLARKE
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 25"We have been to the stars, and have returned. Rubaga might look primitive, but it is deceptive. We are living on the back of a thousand years' progress in science and technology. Plus what we bought from the Gaijin, and others. It is invisible-embedded in the fabric of the worldbut it's here. For instance, many diseases have been eradicated. And, thanks to genetic engineering, aging has been slowed down greatly."
"What about the Uprights?"
"What life span can they expect?"
De Bonneville looked irritated. "Thirty or forty years, I suppose. What does it matter? I'm talking about Homo Sapiens, Malenfant."
Despite de Bonneville's claims about progress, Malenfant soon noticed that mixed in with the clean and healthy and long-lived citizens there were a handful who looked a lot worse off. These unclean were dressed reasonably well. But each of them-man, woman, or child-was afflicted by diseases and deformities. Malenfant counted symptoms: swollen lips, open sores, heads of men and women like billiard balls to which mere clumps of hair still clung. Many were mottled with blackness about the face and hands. Some of them had skin that appeared to be flaking away in handfuls, and there were others with swollen arms, legs and necks, so that their skin was stretched to a smooth glassiness.
All in all, the same symptoms as Pierre de Bonneville.
De Bonneville grimaced at his fellow sufferers. "The Breath of Kimera," he hissed. "A terrible thing, Malenfant." But he would say no more than that.
When these unfortunates moved through the crowds the other Waganda melted away from them, as if determined not even to glance at the unclean ones.
They reached the cane fence that surrounded the village at the top of the hill. They passed through a gate and into the central compound.
Malenfant was led to the house that had been allotted to him. It stood in the center of a plantain garden and was shaped like a marquee, with a portico projecting over the doorway. It had two apartments. Close by there were three domelike huts for servants, and railed spaces for-he was told-his bullocks and goats.
Useful, he thought.
The prospect from up here was imperial. A landscape of early summer green, drenched in sunshine, fell away in waves. There was a fresh breeze coming off the huge inland sea. Here and there isolated coneshaped hills thrust up from the flat landscape, like giant tables above a green carpet. Dark sinuous lines traced the winding courses of deep treefilled ravines separated by undulating pastures. In broader depressions Malenfant could see cultivated gardens and grain fields. Up toward the horizon all these details melted into the blues of the distance.
It was picture-postcard pretty, as if Europeans had never come here. But he wondered what this countryside had seen, how much blood and tears had had to soak into the earth before the scars of colonialism had been healed.
Not that the land wasn't developed pretty intensely: notably, with a network of irrigation channels and canals, clearly visible from up here. The engineering was impressive, in its way. Malenfant wondered how the Kabaka and his predecessors had managed it. The population wasn't so great, it seemed to him, that it could spare huge numbers of laborers from the fields for all these earthworks.
Maybe they used Uprights, whatever they were.
Anyhow, he thought sourly, so much for the pastoral idyll. It looked as if Homo Sap was on the move again-building, breeding, lording it over his fellows and the creatures around him, just like always.
In this unmanaged biosphere, immersed in air that was too dense and too hot and too humid, Malenfant had trouble sleeping; and when he did sleep, he woke to fuzzy senses and a sore head.
There was no way to get coffee, decaffeinated or otherwise.
The next afternoon Malenfant was invited to the palace.
The katekiro-Nemoto-came to escort him, evidently under orders. "Come with me," she said bluntly. It was the first time she'd spoken directly to Malenfant.
"Nemoto, I know it's you. And you know me, don't you?"
"The Kabaka is waiting."
"How did you get here? How long have you been here? Are there any other travelers here?"
Nemoto wouldn't reply.
They approached the tall inner fence around the palace itself. He wasn't the only visitor today, and a procession drew up. The ordinary Waganda weren't permitted beyond this point, but they crowded around the gates anyhow, gossiping and preening.
There was a rumbling roll of a kettle drum, and the gate was drawn aside; they proceeded-chiefs, soldiers, peasants, and interstellar travelersinto a complex of courtyards.
There was a wide avenue inside the fence, and at the fence's four corners those spectacular fountains thrust up into the air, rising fifteen meters or more. The water emerged from crude clay piping that snaked into the ground beneath the palace. Maybe there were pumps buried in the hillside.
Malenfant approached the nearest fountain. He reached out to touch the water. Christ, it was hot, so hot it almost scalded his fingers. Nemoto pulled his arm back. Her hand on his was leathery and warm.
The drums sounded again. They passed through courtyard after courtyard, until finally they stood in front of the palace itself.
It was only a grass hut. But it was tall and spacious, full of light and air. Malenfant, who had once visited the White House, had been in worse government buildings.
The heart of the palace was a reception room. This was a narrow hall some twenty meters long, the ceiling of which was supported by two rows of pillars. The aisles were filled with dignitaries and officers. At each pillar stood one of the Kabaka's guards, wearing a long red mantle, white trousers, black blouse, and a white turban ornamented with monkey skin. All were armed with spears. But there was no throne there, nor Mtesa himself. Instead there was only what Malenfant took to be a well, a rectangular pit in the floor.
Malenfant, Nemoto, and the rest had to sit in rows before the open pit.
Drums clattered, and puffs of steam came venting up from the well mouth, followed by a grinding, mechanical noise. A platform rose up out of the well, smoothly enough. Once again, Malenfant wondered where the energy for these stunts came from. The platform carried a throne-a seat like an office chair-on which sat the lean figure of Mtesa himself. Mtesa's head was clean-shaven and covered with a fez; his features were smooth, polished and without a wrinkle, and he might have been any age between twenty-five and thirty-five. His big, lustrous eyes gave him a strange beauty, and Malenfant wondered if there was Upright blood in there. Mtesa was sweating, his robes a little rumpled, but was grinning hugely...
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