"And everywhere the Humans went, they found life ..."This dazzling future history, winner of the 2000 Philip K. Dick Award, is the most ambitious and exciting since Asimov's classic Foundation saga. It tells the story of Humankind -- all the way to the end of the Universe itself.Here, in luminous and vivid narratives spanning five million years, are the first Poole wormholes spanning the solar system; the conquest of Human planets by Squeem; GUTships that outrace light; the back-time invasion of the Qax: the mystery and legacy of the Xeelee, and their artifacts as large as small galaxies; photino birds and Dark Matter; and the Ring, where Ghost, Human, and Xeelee contemplate the awesome end of Time.Stephen Baxter is the most acclaimed and accomplished of a brilliant new generation of authors who are expanding the vision of science fiction and taking itto a new golden age.
- Philip K. Dick Award
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March 31, 2001
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Excerpt from Vacuum Diagrams by Stephen Baxter
It was, I saw, the morning of mankind, two thousand years before my own birth.
"It's difficult now to recapture the mood of those times,' Eve said. "Confidence-arrogance . . ."
Earth was restored. Great macroengineering projects, supplemented by the nanoengineering of the atmosphere and lithosphere and the transfer off-planet of most power-generating and industrial concerns, had stabilized and preserved the planet's fragile ecosystem. There was more woodland covering the temperate regions than at any time since the last glaciation, locking in much of the excess carbon dioxide which had plagued previous centuries. And the great decline in species suffered after the industrialization of previous millennia was reversed, thanks to the use of genetic archives and careful reconstruction-from disparate descendants-of lost genotypes.
Earth was the first planet to be terraformed
Meanwhile the Solar System was opened up.
Based in the orbit of Jupiter, an engineer called Michael Poole industriously took natural microscopic wormholes-flaws in spacetime-and expanded them, making transit links big enough to permit spaceships to pass through.
Poole Interfaces were towed out of Jovian orbit and set up all over the System. The wormholes which connected the Interfaces enabled the inner System to be traversed in a matter of hours, rather than months. The Jovian system became a hub for interplanetary commerce.
And Port Sol--a Kuiper ice-object on the rim of the System-was to be established as the base for the first great interstellar voyages ...
At the instant of his birth, a hundred impressions cascaded over him. His body, still moist from budding, was a heavy, powerful mass. He stretched, and his limbs extended with soft sucking noises. He felt blood-thick with mechanical potency-surge through the capillaries lacing his torso.
And he had eyes.
There were people all around him, crowding, arguing, hurrying. They seemed tense, worried; but he quickly forgot the thought. It was too glorious to be alive! He stretched up his new limbs. He wanted to embrace all of these people, his friends, his family; he wanted to share with them his vigor, his anticipation of his life to come.
Now a cage of jointed limbs settled around him, protecting him from the crush. He stared up, recognized the fast-healing wound of a recent budding. He called out-but his speech membrane was still moist, and the sound he made was indecipherable. He tried again, feeling the membrane stiffen. "You are my father," he said.
"Yes." A huge face lowered towards him. He reached up to stroke the stem visage. The flesh was hardening. He felt a sweet pang of sadness. Was his father already so old, so near to Consolidation?
"Listen to me. See my face. Your name is Sculptor 472. I am Sculptor 471. You must remember your name."
Sculptor 472. "Thank you," he said seriously. "But-" But what did "Sculptor" mean? He searched his mind, the memory set he'd been born with. Limbs. Father. People. Consolidation. The Sun; the Hills. There was no referent for "Sculptor." He felt a stab of fear; his limbs thrashed. Was something wrong with him?
"Calm yourself," his father said evenly. "It is a name preserved from the past, referring to nothing."
Sculptor 472. It was a good name; a noble name. He looked ahead to his life: his brief three-day morning of awareness and mobility, when he would talk, fight, love, bear his own buds; and then the long, slow, comfortable afternoon of Consolidation. "I feel happy to be alive, father. Everything is wonderful. I-"
"Listen to me."
He stopped, confused; his father's tone was savage, insistent.
Something was wrong.
"Things are-difficult, now. Different."
Sculptor 472 wrapped his limbs around his torso. "Is it me?"
"No, child. The world is troubled."
"But the Hills-Consolidation-"
"We had to leave the Hills." There was shame in 471's voice now; again Sculptor became aware of the crush of people beyond the cage of his father's strong limbs. "The Hills are damaged. There are--Sun-people--strange forms, glowing, shining. We dare not go there. We had to flee."
"But how will I Consolidate? Where will I go?"
"I'm sorry," his father said. "We must travel far. Perhaps we will find new Hills, where we can Consolidate. Perhaps before your time is due."
"But what about you?"
"Never mind me." With harsh, urgent gestures, 471 poked at his son. "Come. Can you walk?"
Sculptor unwrapped his limbs, settled them to the ground and stood, experimentally. He felt a little dizzy, and some of his joints ached. "Yes. Yes, I'm fine. But I must know--"
"No more talking. Run, child!"