Xeelee: Vengeance by Stephen Baxter

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Xeelee: Vengeance by Stephen Baxter

Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 2/5
Reviewer: Sean Barrs
Reviewed by Sean Barrs
Summary: This book contains some great ideas though, ultimately, they were let down by the slow plot and weak protagonist.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: June 2017
Publisher: Gollancz
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1473217171

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Michael Poole, Earth's greatest living engineer, changed the galaxy when he opened a worm hole to allow for quick and easy transportation across the solar system. However, such a thing was created with a degree of naivety and a lack of foresight because out of the worm hole flew an unknown vessel of alien origin. Unlike anything seen by human eyes before, it is unstoppable and unfathomable. Bent on an unknown path, the vessel is unresponsive to the human life around it. It ignores hails and even direct attacks. Nothing affects it, not even the surface of the sun. All it seems to want is energy, and Earth has plenty of that to be absorbed.

However, as exciting and mysterious as this early incident may sound, the plot was, unfortunately, as slow as the giant Xeelee vessel that crawled through the system: it was drawn out and dragging at a terribly slow pace. And despite the huge amount of build up for the final confrontation, there was a surprising lack of tension created for the situation. Earth was under direct threat; yet, somehow the writing did not evoke a sense of drama. It felt detached and distant, even from its own protagonist. Stephen Baxter has some grand ideas, but the writing here did not deliver them in an entertaining way nor was it thought provoking or engaging on any level.

Poole is a name associated with brilliant ideas and ingenuity. This idea is relayed very early on in the book and it is constantly reinforced through dialogue, that much so it became increasingly frustrating and annoying to the point of absolute redundancy. It's a classic example of the importance of showing over telling. That being said, none of the characters actually displayed much in the way of creativeness or the genius they were supposed to have. One example the author drew upon was Michael using his spacecraft to shunt the Xeelee vessel, certainly not an action I would call particularly intelligent.

The ending of the book, another feat on Michael's behalf, seemed lazy and very last minute. For most of the story he seemed like a passive bystander, completely happy to let his father take charge in the upcoming crisis. He barely acted, and when he did it was out of spontaneity. All in all, he did not live up to the puffing up of his family name the author felt compelled to do at every possible opportunity. Michael's farther (only a Poole by marriage) demonstrated more of the family qualities than Michael did; it's a little odd really.

On a character and plot level, this book did not deliver. But for the right reader Baxter's exploration of technology and science may be of some interest. He demonstrates an in depth knowledge of science, and the speculative possibilities of where it could take us in the future. He also had some interesting ideas about artificial intelligence and the sentience of it. At times, I felt like his writing and knowledge would be more appropriate in non-fiction theory books; it certainly was leaning towards being more informative rather than narrative based at times. I will not be reading the sequel. This book was not for me. Those looking for a science fiction novel with a bit more energy and character may like The Weight of the World (The Amaranthine Spectrum) by Tom Toner or The Algebraist by Iain M Banks.

Buy Xeelee: Vengeance by Stephen Baxter at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Xeelee: Vengeance by Stephen Baxter at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Xeelee: Vengeance by Stephen Baxter at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Xeelee: Vengeance by Stephen Baxter at Amazon.com.


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