Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Stephen Baxter”

Shaman’s Cannonball Read #CBR04 review #23: Titan by Stephen Baxter

It’s a mystery. I enjoy most science fiction films I watch, most books I read, yet I never actively seek science fiction books out to read. This particular book, Stephen Baxter’s Titan, was in my bookcase for years before I finally picked it up, reading the summary on the back cover and trying to remember if I’d read it. A sticker on the front told me I had bought it on sale, but I had no recollection of it. This didn’t seem like a promising start.


Half an hour into the book, I was ready to put it down again. Details upon details of spaceships and how they work, jargon that might as well be another language, and science. Lots of it. I was wondering when the story was going to begin. But, paradoxically, despite the book balancing precariously on the edge between good story-telling and Space Flight for Dummies, Baxter slowly but surely drew me in.


Titan is the story of a manned mission to the titular moon of Saturn. Five astronauts make their way through years and unfathomable empty spaces to what they hope will become a new frontier for mankind, at the same time as Earth undergoes a catastrophic crisis. It is a journey fuelled by curiosity, that basic human thirst for knowledge and, in the end, for finding out what comes next. Are we alone in the universe? And – something that is perhaps implied, but never openly discussed – what happens when we die?


The aforementioned details that, early on, threatened to bog down the novel, prove to be the catalyst for its success. They are precisely what turned the astronauts’ bland journey to the outer reaches of our solar system to riveting fiction. They spoke to my own inner curiosity about how people would survive such a journey, both mentally and physically. I felt what the astronauts felt: their boredom, their detachment, their fears and hopes. My only minor complaint is that I never cared for the characters, never rooted for them other than that I wished they’d survive so I could follow them on their journey. Their personalities are almost interchangeable as soon as one strays from their job descriptions, and that makes it hard for the reader to find someone to identify with. We identify with the idea of them instead, that they represent mankind. But maybe that was the point? That we are all flawed and ultimately as boring as these five?


Titan is not a book about hope, at least not if you honestly believe that we are the masters of the universe. Yet it is not a book about despair, either. It is a book that explores what it is that gives meaning to our existence and that reminds us how small and insignificant we are as soon as we’ve left the gravity boundaries of our home planet.
More of my reviews and ramblings here.

Fofo’s #CBR4 Review #29: The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Target: Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s The Long Earth

Profile: Speculative Fiction, Science Fiction

The Long Earth is easier to define by what it isn’t.  It isn’t the epic collaboration that Good Omens was.  It isn’t really sci-fi, or at least not sci-fi that most of us would recognize.  It definitely isn’t comedy.  And it isn’t bad.  I think a lot of readers went into the book expecting another Good Omens, and were disappointed, but the critical thought that went into crafting this off-beat novel is solid and the story is engaging and interesting.  Really, the book is an exercise in concepting; posing a scenario and extrapolating the consequences from as many angles as are relevant.  In that context, The Long Earth is a great success.

Read the rest of the review…

Bothari’s #CBR4 Review #11: Firstborn by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter

Arthur’s books make me feel dumb, but in a good way. His books are heavy on the science side of science fiction, and it all sounds completely plausible. Quantum bombs? Solar powered spaceships based on sailboat principles? Space elevators from the ground to space stations? Yes, sir, absolutely. The technology (and physics, and math, and…ouch) is so lovingly written and so detailed that you believe that one day mankind will do all the things he says.

Firstborn is the third book in the Time Odyssey series, and I’m afraid I’d forgotten a bit too much of book two to follow absolutely everything that happens. Earth is trying to save itself from a planet-destroying Q-bomb, fired at us across galaxies by the mysterious and apparently bitchy Firstborn, who tried to destroy humans in the previous books as well. Brand new technology is unleashed on the bomb, trying to destroy it or at least turn it from its path to Earth. Plots are hatched, weapons are invented, and it’s all very exciting. As cool as all the space stuff was, however, the people were my favorite part. This threat to the world itself unites humankind, which had been splintering. Colonies on the moon and on Mars think of themselves as completely separate from the Earth-dwellers, and the new generation of Spacers is even further removed. The colony on Mars is so firmly established that the residents consider themselves Martians. Nobody wants to cooperate or share information with anyone else. Familiar characters from the first books guide the way, with help from a crop of new faces. Reluctant politicians, brilliant but untrusting scientists, a few aliens, and even Thomas Edison (in a cameo from Mir, the sideways universe created in the first book) work together to face the threat.

Though the intricate detail gets a little overwhelming at times, the worry for the planet and the people keep the story moving forward. And as a bonus, if I ever get stranded on Mars, I’m pretty sure I’ll know how to survive until help comes.

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