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Flux [Mass Market Paperback]

Stephen Baxter


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Book Description

Feb. 24 1995
A race of microscopic beings, who were genetically engineered to survive on the turbulent mantle of a neutron star and who vividly remember their superbeing creators, prepare for the biggest family reunion in history. Reprint.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Canada / Fiction; Reprint edition (Feb. 24 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061008370
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061008375
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.2 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #416,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein succeeded in doing it, but very few others. Now Stephen Baxter joins their exclusive ranks -- writing science fiction in which the science is right, the author knowledgeable, and the extrapolations a sheer pleasure to read, admire, enjoy. The reaction is that which C.S. Lewis referred to when he described science fiction as the only genuine consciousness-expanding drug. Flux is a highly imaginative and moving novel .. It is a rare thing to find such a good read. Wonderful stuff!' Harry Harrison, New Scientist 'Flux puts Stephen Baxter in the front line of world-spinners.' The Times --This text refers to an alternate Mass Market Paperback edition.

About the Author

Stephen Baxter was born in 1957. Raised in Liverpool, he has a mathematics degree from the University of Cambridge and a Ph.D from Southampton. Until recently he worked in information technology. His first novel, Raft, was published in 1991, to great acclaim. --This text refers to an alternate Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
35 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Baxter has vision, but it's blurred March 28 2001
By Christopher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is the second Baxter book I've read (after VACUUM DIAGRAMS), and like the first it's a mix of brilliance and disappointment.
Baxter unquestionably has the wildest hard-physics imagination in the business. The world depicted in FLUX is a staggering conceptual achievement, taking the amazing concept of neutron-star life first suggested by Frank Drake and developed by Robert L. Forward in DRAGON'S EGG & STARQUAKE and going one step further, creating an ecosystem within the neutron-superfluid mantle of the star and exploring its whole geography from crust to core. The biology, locomotion and senses of the inhabitants are well worked out.
But Baxter's imagination tends to outrace even him. In both his books I've read, there have been major flaws in logic, points on which he failed to think his ideas through. Here, for story convenience, he asserts that the nuclear-size humanoids' life and thought processes happen at normal human speed. Readers of Forward will see the absurdity of this. The nucleonic processes on which this life is based are a million times faster than chemistry, because the particles are so much closer together. Even if it were possible to slow these people's life cycles so much in proportion to the underlying processes, they'd be agonizingly slower than the native organisms around them, living on a slower timescale than even the plants. There are other moments of shortsightedness; sometimes he describes them in humanlike ways incompatible with the anatomy and physics he's defined. (How could Dura have "slick palms" when they don't perspire?)
When the reason for these micro-humans' creation is finally revealed, it doesn't make sense. It would've been more logical to build mindless robots for the task, and ones better-designed to fit the environment. The creators' choice to make them almost exactly human down to the same impractical anatomy and the same emotions and aspirations shows a sentimentalism fiercely incompatible with the project's goals.
Baxter also gets confused about the scale of his trademark structure, Bolder's Ring. In VACUUM DIAGRAMS he said it was millions of light-years across -- yet described an attack on its rim affecting its center instantaneously, and described a distant observer seeing the battle across its whole width in real time. And here, he describes it appearing tiny from a distance of mere thousands of light-years. Baxter seems to have trouble realizing the physical and temporal scope of his own creations. His imagination is bigger than his judgment.
Baxter's a far better writer than Forward, but as in Forward's books, the plot is basically an excuse for illustrating the environment and physics. His characters have a modicum of emotion and personality, unlike Forward's, but are sometimes superficially drawn and hard to get a handle on. The one sexual interlude is painfully awkward and gratuitous from a character standpoint, serving only to illustrate the mechanics of the act for this species. (And let's not go into Baxter's seeming obsession with bodily functions. He could've chosen a more pleasant term for biological jet-propulsion.)
Amid the superlatively exotic setting, the society is relentlessly ordinary and unimaginative. The sociological storyline replays the mythology of countless British WWII films (and American films about Britain, such as MRS. MINIVER) -- a stratified society is torn apart by disaster and becomes united, promising to rebuild as an egalitarian utopia. It's tacked on quite awkwardly here. Overall, Baxter pulls the reader in two different directions -- in the environment and physics he strives for unimagined wonders, but for the people and society he pulls against that and forces them to be as mundane and familiar as possible.
FLUX portrays the most extraordinarily alien, yet credibly developed, physical environment I have ever seen in SF. But this just throws the book's flaws and its ordinary storytelling into sharp relief. And Baxter's failure to think through all the ramifications of his own ideas, and the huge logic gaffes that result, are a continual frustration.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strengths far outweigh weaknesses- terrific science Aug. 4 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The review by Christopher is articulate and accurate regarding the imperfect story in Flux. However the environment and senario are so wonderfully drawn and described that weaknesses in the story are a minor distraction in the work of the facinating author.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humanity Prevails June 26 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Flux is only one of several books in the Xeelee sequence and does exactly what those other novels and numerous short stories do for this magnificent saga. It adds to its complexity, enlarging the vastness of the sequence by adding yet another layer to this magnificent, time engulfing Story. Much of the book stands on its own (appart from carefully added references to the other books, I especially enjoyed Parz City, a reference to a character in Timelike Infinity). Throughout the novel the reader knows, as do the neutron star's inhabitants, that they were put there by Humans. Only in the end does the reader learn why this was so. These micro-people were implanted into the star and sent on a multimillenial journey only to arrive at the Ring (the final Xeelee book). There they were intended to take their place in the great war and ensure that the neutron star would continue in a direct impact course with the Ring, hoping to destroy it. True humanity prevails. Find out how.gv
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising but, disappointing Feb. 28 2000
By John Peter O'connor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The most striking thing about this novel is the setting. The events take place within a thin layer just below the surface of a neutron star.
Somehow, life is possible within this environment and the main characters are a tiny race of beings created by humans to be able to live in the environment.
Within this world, the author creates a preindustrial society whose attitudes bear an odd resemblance to those on the planet Norfolk in Peter Hamilton's "Night's Dawn" series. Yes, despite the setting, the characters are really taken from pastoral England. Indeed, Baxter's heroine Dura and several of the other characters might have walked out of a novel by Thomas Hardy.
The novel follows the adventures of Dura as she starts out trying to save her small clan and ends trying to save the world and perhaps even the universe itself.
A good story, some interesting characters and a great setting. So, what could go wrong with that?
Well, despite all of this promise, the novel finally failed to be complete because of the way that the ending was handled. Suddenly, new technologies, situations and relationnships were introduced to tie up all of the dangling threads and bring things to a conclusion. I almost had the feeling the the author suddenly decided that it was time to get it all wrapped up and off to the publishers.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very imaginative Baxter March 7 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
If you want to read something bizarre and imaginative, read this. It's the story of sub-microscopic "humans" embedded in a neutron star and (like several other Baxter novels) has a certain Victorian flavor to the setting (believe it or not - in a neutron star). While all that was good, I was a little disappointed with the plot. The ending was a little hard to understand, or at least to imagine. It had potential, but it didn't quite deliver. Also, throughout the book, there is a certain darkness to the society which makes the read just a tad depressing, but obviously it was supposed to be that way. Still, a lighter moment (or aspect to the plot/society) or two would have been nice.

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