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Firstborn (Time Odyssey Series #3)

Firstborn (Time Odyssey Series #3)

3.7 39
by Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter

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The Firstborn–the mysterious race of aliens who first became known to science fiction fans as the builders of the iconic black monolith in 2001: A Space Odysseyhave inhabited legendary master of science fiction Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s writing for decades. With Time’s Eye and Sunstorm, the first two books in their acclaimed Time Odyssey


The Firstborn–the mysterious race of aliens who first became known to science fiction fans as the builders of the iconic black monolith in 2001: A Space Odysseyhave inhabited legendary master of science fiction Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s writing for decades. With Time’s Eye and Sunstorm, the first two books in their acclaimed Time Odyssey series, Clarke and his brilliant co-author Stephen Baxter imagined a near-future in which the Firstborn seek to stop the advance of human civilization by employing a technology indistinguishable from magic.

Their first act was the Discontinuity, in which Earth was carved into sections from different eras of history, restitched into a patchwork world, and renamed Mir. Mir’s inhabitants included such notables as Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and United Nations peacekeeper Bisesa Dutt. For reasons unknown to her, Bisesa entered into communication with an alien artifact of inscrutable purpose and godlike power–a power that eventually returned her to Earth. There, she played an instrumental role in humanity’s race against time to stop a doomsday event: a massive solar storm triggered by the alien Firstborn designed to eradicate all life from the planet. That fate was averted at an inconceivable price. Now, twenty-seven years later, the Firstborn are back.

This time, they are pulling no punches: They have sent a “quantum bomb.” Speeding toward Earth, it is a device that human scientists can barely comprehend, that cannot be stopped or destroyed–and one that will obliterate Earth.

Bisesa’s desperate quest for answers sends her first to Mars and then to Mir, which is itself threatened with extinction. The end seems inevitable. But as shocking new insights emerge into the nature of the Firstborn and their chilling plans for mankind, an unexpected ally appears from light-years away.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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
Library Journal

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.

—Jackie Cassada
Kirkus Reviews
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.”
–Entertainment Weekly

“An absolute must for science fiction fans.”
–All Things Considered

“Sure to blow your mind.”

Time’s Eye

“Wonderfully entertaining . . . a story that engrosses you with its dramatized ideas about the nature of existence.”
–Chicago Tribune

“A rousing adventure.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“A fast and engaging read.”
–Rocky Mountain News

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Time Odyssey Series , #3
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Random House
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625 KB

Read an Excerpt

1: Bisesa
February 2069

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.

“Doctor Heyer?”

“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.

“Doctor Heyer?”

“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.”

“Myra, wait—”

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.

Meet the Author

Arthur C. Clarke is considered the greatest science fiction writer of all time and is an international treasure in many other ways, including the fact that a 1945 article by him led to the invention of satellite technology. Books by Clarke–both fiction and nonfiction–have sold more than one hundred million copies worldwide. Mr. Clarke passed away March 19th, 2008.

From the Hardcover edition.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 16, 1917
Date of Death:
March 19, 2008
Place of Birth:
Minehead, Somerset, England
Place of Death:
Sri Lanka
1948, King's College, London, first-class honors in Physics and Mathematics

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Firstborn (Time Odyssey Series #3) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Firstborn is the concluding volume in Sir Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter¿s Time Odyssey trilogy. The preceding two books in this science-fiction series are Time¿s Eye '2003' and Sunstorm '2005'. Each of the preceding novels was vivid, innovative, and compelling. I cannot say the same thing about Firstborn. The final installment is a disappointing capstone. (PP) Without spoiling the story, Firstborn leaves us with as many questions as it answers. It lacks finality. Readers are left wanting more. Yet there is nothing more for Clarke and Baxter to give, after they seem to write themselves into a corner. (PP) The concluding chapters of the book are increasingly ambiguous. Clarke and Baxter seem distracted by their own storyline. It becomes ever more complex as Firstborn unravels. As the end nears, Firstborn becomes tenuous and unconvincing. (PP) This is in contrast to most of Clarke¿s writing over the past 60 years. I credit Clarke and author Robert Heinlein '1907¿1988' as being the best at weaving science, engineering, physics, and futurism into their works of science fiction. Unfortunately, in Firstborn, the concepts Baxter and Clarke select ¿ particularly several concepts of theoretical physics ¿ are simply unrealistic. To the extent that any of it is credible, the writers fail to properly explain core principals. Unlike Clarke and Baxter¿s former works, the technology in Firstborn does not buttress the narrative. It detracts from it. (PP) I concede that there is lengthy discussion in the book of space elevators and anti-matter rocket motors. As to the first, it is a rehash of a concept Clarke wrote about 25 years ago in The Fountains of Paradise '1979'. As to the second ¿ anti-matter rockets ¿ the discussion of this technology is pedestrian and under-developed. Clarke and Baxter seem to know as much/little about it as some sophisticated readers know. It makes the technological application and discussion in Firstborn seem far-fetched and contrived. (PP) Character development in Firstborn is also disappointing. There are several strong female characters. We met some of them before in Sunstorm and Time¿s Eye. In Firstborn, however, they are not easy to warm up to. Their demeanors, amid massive catastrophes and suffering, are measured and stiff. Certain male protagonists exhibit the opposite problem: they are caricatures and impossible to identify with. Many lesser characters are unmemorable. This is despite excellent creative opportunities which could have been leveraged in the ¿Mir¿ universe. (PP) The writing in Firstborn simply does not compare with Clarke¿s past work. In other books, he more easily and vividly communicated joy, pain, courage, and suffering. He was at his best, for example, in Songs of Distant Earth '1986' and Childhood¿s End '1953', which better explore love, friendship, family and a range of human emotions in the context of a space-faring society. Firstborn falls far short of his own standards. (PP) Please do not let this review dissuade you from reading other Arthur C. Clarke novels. He is one of my favorite writers of all time. It is in fact difficult for me to write this less-than-favorable review of Firstborn. Clarke ties Heinlein in my mind for being the best science fiction writer in history. Significantly, Clarke¿s vision, including early work on geostationary satellites, transcends science fiction. He is legitimately celebrated for contributions to ¿science fact.¿ It is therefore not my opinion that Firstborn is a poorly-written book it is only lacking when compared to Clarke 'and Baxter¿s' prior works. (PP) J. Christopher Robbins Aviation & Space Law Department Robbins Equitas, P.A.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an interesting story.but it really needs another book to wrap up the loose ends. I can appreciate an open ended story as much as anyone, but this does not feel open ended. It just feels unfinished. I was very dissapointed. Felt like someone tore out the last page.
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