Stephen Baxter – Xeelee: Vacuum Diagrams

Quite a long time ago, Stephen Baxter, who I’ve mentioned once or twice before (most recently when I muttered about his collaboration with Alastair Reynolds, The Medusa Chronicles), wrote a pile of stories set in an internally consistent future history, spanning huge spans of time and dealing with assorted alien species, but mostly the mysterious and ancient Xeelee, a race so advanced in science and technology that Clarke’s Third Law[1] would need a lie down in a dark room after encountering their toys. Not that the Xeelee are the worst thing in Baxter’s future history, oh no. There’s the little matter of the beings made of dark matter, who aren’t at all keen on all those nasty shiny things known as “stars” and are quite determined to so something about them. But humans and other races know little of that, and instead make futile attempts to disturb the great project that the Xeelee are working on…

The stories collected here cover much of that future history, with some linking narrative added to fill in the gaps, footnotes referring to the novels, and the whole thing rearranged into a proper time (nearly said timelike, but that’s another story altogether) sequence.

Things start off conventionally enough with the expansion of humanity into the solar system, with some convenient wormhole technology making it a wee bit easier to get around. There are invasions and occupations, and much much more.

There is a bit of a tendency towards extended infodumps (more physics than some people might be comfortable with in some stories), but for anyone who grew up on old-school 1930s-50s sf, that shouldn’t be a problem. Most of the stories are quite short, so if you don’t like one, there’ll be another along in a minute. I’d read most of them previously – many in Interzone, others in various anthologies, and it was a delight to be able to read them all in the proper sequence. It’s currently available at a very reasonable price in Kindle form, and on that basis it’s very highly recommended.

And if you’re interested in Baxter’s Xeelee future, there’s more to come…

[1] Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. But you knew that, right?

One thought on “Stephen Baxter – Xeelee: Vacuum Diagrams

  1. Pingback: Stephen Baxter – Xeelee: Endurance | Losing it

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