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Format: Mass Market Paperback. Language: English. Release Date: April Publisher: Harper Voyager. Length: Pages. Weight: 0. Dimensions: 1. Customer Reviews. Write a review. Uncommonly great Published by Thriftbooks. Baxter's main work is called the "Xeelee Sequence". Vacuum Diagrams is the fifth book of the series.
It is not a one-story book, but a set of 21 short stories chronologically placed. The first one is set on year 3, and the 21st happens some time after year 4 Million. The 21 stories are snapshots of the future, logically linked to the main concepts of the Xeelee Sequence. In general, each story presents new and creative sci-fi concepts.
If you have read and enjoyed other works from Baxter, you will surely like this book. If you haven't read him but are a Clarke or even an Asimov fan, you will probably enjoy this, too.
Notwithstanding my 5 star rating, I must warn you of two issues I had with this book: - Its style, with so many short stories, that are linked in time and in concept, can be tiring.
On sci-fi terms, its like turning on a hyperdrive to move to a new galaxy, take a look at it and when you're beginning to understand what's it all about, you have to jump again. You are always left wondering about so many details and ramifications of each story.
It can frustrating. It took me a while to regain my energy and read the last 3 stories. I don't think it will be fair to get into details about the Xeelee Sequence, but for those who are curious about it, here are some of its main concepts: - Around AD, humankind develops new technologies that allow it to travel quickly through space. The solar system is colonized. However, Man is persistent and resilient and gets its freedom back. The ring has such a gravity field that stars in its vicinity look blue.
These are just some of the basic premises of the Xeelee Sequence. I am surely missing some key elements. Hopefully just with what I wrote here you will be compelled to try any book of the Sequence. If you're into sci-fi, you wont be dissapointed.
I hope you read this review first. When I was halfway through the book I was eager to write a book review. Overall, recommended reading if you are a reader of hard SF, or would like to enjoy the space opera and associated visions. Huge, mind-bending setting and bold ideas, as expected from Baxter. Individual characters were sometimes lacking depth, but in some cases I was pleasantly surprised. What made me give this 4 instead of 5 stars is the lack of change in humans.
When you are telling a story covering such a large time-span, it looks ridiculous that humans still sound like us. Apr 24, Johan Haneveld rated it really liked it. To me Baxter is one of the most invigorating and thought provoking SF-authors of today.
Not because of his view of the human condition which is pretty cynical or insight into characters they are as flat as those in 50's SF , of in society. But well, I myself am more interested in cosmology, physics and the natural world th 7,5 This collection of short stories is a 'mosaic novel' of sorts giving an overview of Baxters future history with some broad strokes, filling in a few details on the way.
But well, I myself am more interested in cosmology, physics and the natural world than in anthropology or sociology. And Baxters speculations about the diversity of possible life in our solar system, the history and future of the universe on very long scales and the scope of his imagination in coming up with intergalactic warfare, far future forms of humanity and the fate of life itself always ignite my own imagination and inspire me awe.
I get from him the sense of wonder that I crave in SF. It's not different here. Especially the final few stories in the collection describing a far future offshoot of humanity living in a failing artificial construct were mindblowing. Here Baxter is on his best with strange scenario's and universe wide implications. I did enjoy the opening stories as well, because of their biological speculation, but the stories didn't seem to have much to do with the story of the XeeLee, and the human characters in them were not engaging there was not much on the line for them.
Some of the middle stories were engaging, but felt a bit anecdotal. This is due to the nature of the book being marketed as a 'mosaic novel', with a bridging story connecting them.
It tries to tell of the future history of mankind, but the important moments, the defining choices are described in other books and are only alluded to here.
So we do not get a good sense of the suffering of mankind under the occupation of the Squeem and the Qax. We also do not get a feel of the war effort of humankind against the Xeelee, and the way humans rule over other races.
The stories that are collected here seem inconsequential, and I missed more involvement with the overall story. Which was important as that is what the final parts of the book are all about. Only at the end I thought I was reading about the main thread of the future history. This doesn't mean the individual stories are bad - just that it didn't feel very much like a complete tale as a whole.
Interesting speculation, grand scientific concepts, taken to their ultimate conclusions. This is hard SF 'avant la lettre', but for those willing to put their thinking caps on, it is ultimately satisfying. May 25, Stevie Kincade rated it liked it Shelves: reviewed. The conclusion to the original Xeelee sequence. He can be more focused and deliver his brilliant idea and get out. For the most part this a series of "slices" from the Xeelee universe.
It is not a series of stories with a beginning, middle and end. It can be hard to adjust to each new slice since it might jump ahead thousands of years from the last one.
It The conclusion to the original Xeelee sequence. It always took me a few pages to work out what was going on in each new story and I had to go back and re read at times. The first series of stories are not really Xeelee sequence stories. They are all about types of life forms that could concievably exist within our own solar system.
If that kind of realistic science porn is your thing you will love them. If you just want to know more about the Xeelee you will be skimming.
What we do get are the Jim Bolder stories any fan of the series would be interested in. We get more on the Qax. I always enjoy reading about those very alien aliens. We get some interactions with Xeelee artefacts. One of these was the story "the Xeelee flower" where Baxter's tone was more glib and humorous then I thought he could do. I was pleasantly surprised with this story because it was so different. The titular story "Vacuum diagrams" introduces us to the character of Paul who is a very interesting addition to the Xeelee pantheon.
The book finishes with the novella length "The Baryonic Lords" which tells the story of the last generations of humans. This one was an epic, great story. If you are in a rush you could just read the Eve stories, Bolder's story, Planck zero, and the Baryonic Lords and get what you need to complete the original sequence. If you want a series that literally takes you from the birth of the cosmos to the death of the last star, this is it. Jul 01, Rob rated it really liked it.
Being a hard sci-fi nut, I find it difficult to get my sci-fi fix without compromising something. In this case my compromises were minimal - Baxter isn't the greatest writer in the genre, but damn if his science isn't glorious! This book is less a novel than a collection of stories drawn from a single unique universe of his devising, loosely connected by a segregated secondary narrative that gives them some additional weight and context.
Many of the tales can be read as stand-alone stories, and i Being a hard sci-fi nut, I find it difficult to get my sci-fi fix without compromising something.
Many of the tales can be read as stand-alone stories, and in fact were published as such, so even if reading a hard sci-fi novel seems daunting I'd recommend giving this a shot.
I especially enjoyed his portrayals of utterly not-like-us life. Life on the outer planets and their moons? Non-molecular life? Life as probability? Hard sci-fi fans should consider this a must-read.
Other sci-fi fans should definitely give it a look. Kudos, Mr. Jun 04, Peter Aronson rated it liked it. The scale of these stories is breathtaking, the events, artifacts, wars and story lines immense and awesome, but the human elements are not convincing. Thousands of years in the future with new technologies, new worlds, contact with aliens, an many other transformative events and people have changed a bit.
There's no sign of cultural evolution or novelty. And, despite population in the trillions or higher, the human race seems to be one culture with one set of goals. I guess you're supposed to r The scale of these stories is breathtaking, the events, artifacts, wars and story lines immense and awesome, but the human elements are not convincing.
I guess you're supposed to read Baxter for the super-sized science and ignore the holes. Mar 13, Chak rated it it was amazing Shelves: sci-fi-and-fantasy , fiction.
Vacuum Diagrams was the book to make the "oh, this is a thing, and I like that thing" lightbulb go off for me, even though I should have realized it sooner given my love for books like Vinge's Fire Upon the Deep and Deepness in the Sky , Tchaikovsky's Children of Time , VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, Liu's Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy better known, at least to me, as The Three Body Problem trilogy , etc.
Note to self: look up Yukawa forces, galactic drift, Kerr metric The thing that surprised me the most about this book, though, is that I don't feel a need to dive into the rest of this particular universe. I feel like this set of short stories were not only excellent, but also complete. Quotes: p. They had to learn the techniques of oppression from humans themselves.
Fortunately for the Qax, human history wasn't short of object lessons Starting from a common root, the languages of two human groups will diverge by a fifth every thousand years. Rodi turned to genetic analysis. Two groups on Earth will show divergence of genetic structure at a rate of one percent every five million years.
May 15, Hernando rated it it was amazing. Reading a short stories book can be a roller coaster. The thing is, here we have a few weak stories for sure but they are still good, and the good ones, are just top quality SF and I'll eventually read them again. There was not a single one that did not put my brain to work , I liked tha 4. There was not a single one that did not put my brain to work , I liked that. This one and Timelike Infinity are my favorites from Baxter.
Dec 23, Eric rated it really liked it. Although "hard" science fiction is not usually my cup of tea, I must acknowledge the excellence of this book. It often got me pretty excited about concepts I don't have the background to understand.
Jul 31, Elephant Abroad rated it really liked it. Aug 14, Rusty rated it really liked it Shelves: prose , science-fiction. Still might, now that I think of it. I dunno. Point of all that is that I read a prose book… a friggin novel, and I forgot to so much as mark it as currently reading. Dumb me.
Mostly my work has been insane lately and I have been spending extra time there, doing work things, and reading has been nothing more than a distraction as a result, something I do while eating a quick meal, or right before I go to bed.
Anyhoo - I think I last read and reviewed Ring , that super-epic universe spanning head trip that first made me really fall in love with science fiction way back when it was first published. That book still delivered to me all that awe and wonder that I love so much. Well, this anthology is a collection of stories that tells the future history of mankind over the next few million years… very similar to The Last and First Men in concept, I do believe.
Stephen Baxter is an enigma to me, he writes the most readable prose, explores questions that are about the fundamental nature of reality… about the deep past and the deep future, and he manages to hit almost all my sweet spots intellectually in his books. But going back and rereading this old stuff of his. I thought it was pretty cool.
He took the time to make original content and turn each story a stepping stone that led to a climax in its own right. I loved it.
I loved it when I first read it 18 or so years ago, and I loved it when I read it again a year or so later, and again when I read it about 5 years after that, and I loved it when I read it this time.
Then we see humanity throw off that yolk of slavery only to be brought low by yet another alien race, this one a much more brutal overlord to serve. Then the shackles of slavery are broken again, and humans expand into the cosmos, changed, and intent on dominating any would-be competitor for the resources the cosmos provides. But all the while, humans, are discovering that their unquestioned dominance of the universe is similar to an ant colony thinking it rules Manhattan because all the other ants are conquered.
All these stories take place with the larger history I outlined above as background material. But most of the stories are quite personal, touching, and tinged with sadness. I love this stuff unabashedly. Reading this as an introduction to Baxter might be weird, I think this is icing on the cake that is his other older Xeelee novels.
You know, filling in the gaps here and there. Deep, dark, and depressing. Just the way I like my fiction. Great job! Feb 11, Mike Headon rated it really liked it. An absorbing introduction to the Xeelee sequence. Mar 23, Nick rated it it was amazing. Quite possibly the best collection of hard sci-fi stories ever.
I've read it twice and I think its about time I read it again. No lack of imagination in this novel-length collection of short stories, loosely linked together to form an epic future history of the universe. Some of the concepts - the alien races, the advanced technologies - are breathtaking in their scope. Baxter does an impressive job of evoking a sense of wonder with his development of scientific concepts into stories.
However, though this book works brilliantly as hard SF, it falls short as literature. By which I mean that it fails on some of the more mu No lack of imagination in this novel-length collection of short stories, loosely linked together to form an epic future history of the universe. By which I mean that it fails on some of the more mundane and basic aspects of storytelling.
Characterisation is generally weak - the stories are populated by people who's main purpose is to tell us about science. The plotting is also poor and feels contrived in places. For example, one story depends for its resolution on a race of highly intelligent aliens doing something really stupid. It's the sort of weakness that for me undermines the entire story - and consequently the rest of the book, since this story is a significant part of the whole collection.
So read and enjoy it for its clever use of science and its imaginative scope. But not for its storytelling. This is a collection of short stories covering 5 million years and the timeline of the whole original Xeelee series, and it is Baxter at his best. Like a lot of science fiction the human characters are, for the most part, one-dimensional plot pushing mechanisms.
Although a certain long-lived sun dweller does shine, pretty much literally, above the rest and you do get a rich understanding and develop s real feeling for her as a person. It is the many fresh concepts, aliens and cultures rather than the individual humans that make these stories work. From the convection cell based Qax ,and dark matter Photino birds, to Xeelee flowers, and the source of the great attractor, he presents an array of invented technologies, artifacts, societies and aliens that will leave most readers over following with a sense of wonder and awe — except for the Squeem — now really they were just too silly.
You were just having a laugh there Stephen. Please tell me that is true…. Sep 28, Booth Babcock rated it liked it. Baxter's Xeelee sequence of far, far, far future novels is famously written all out of order, and in one interview he suggested reading this book of short stories first, as they collectively span close to the full range of the novels and provide a framework into which to slot the various other stores.
Um, OK. Lots of "big ideas" and scientific mumbo jumbo that I won't pretend to be able to understand, the stories themselves are often just rickety frameworks on which to build his various big idea Baxter's Xeelee sequence of far, far, far future novels is famously written all out of order, and in one interview he suggested reading this book of short stories first, as they collectively span close to the full range of the novels and provide a framework into which to slot the various other stores.
Lots of "big ideas" and scientific mumbo jumbo that I won't pretend to be able to understand, the stories themselves are often just rickety frameworks on which to build his various big ideas.
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WebRead Vacuum Diagrams by Baxter, Stephen, lexile & reading level: (ISBN: ). Book enhanced with curriculum aligned questions and activities, world . WebVacuum diagrams: stories of the xeelee sequence by Baxter, Stephen Publication date Topics Space colonies Publisher New York: EOS Collection inlibrary; . WebIt tells the story of Humankind -- all the way to the end of the Universe info.informaticknowledge.com, in luminous and vivid narratives spanning five million years, are the first Poole wormholes .