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The Light of Other Days Hardcover – April 16, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (April 16, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312871996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312871994
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #712,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

The crowning achievement of any professional writer is to get paid twice for the same material: write a piece for one publisher and then tweak it just enough that you can turn around and sell it to someone else. While it's specious to accuse Stephen Baxter and Arthur C. Clarke of this, fans of both authors will definitely notice some striking similarities between Light of Other Days and other recent works by the two, specifically Baxter's Manifold: Time and Clarke's The Trigger.

The Light of Other Days follows a soulless tech billionaire (sort of an older, more crotchety Bill Gates), a soulful muckraking journalist, and the billionaire's two (separated since birth) sons. It's 2035, and all four hold ringside seats at the birth of a new paradigm-destroying technology, a system of "WormCams," harnessing the power of wormholes to see absolutely anyone or anything, anywhere, at any distance (even light years away). As if that weren't enough, the sons eventually figure out how to exploit a time-dilation effect, allowing them to use the holes to peer back in time.

For Baxter's part, the Light of Other Days develops another aspect of Manifold's notion that humanity might have to master the flow of time itself to avert a comparatively mundane disaster (yet another yawn-inducing big rock threatening to hit the earth); Clarke, just as he did with Trigger's anti-gun ray, speculates on how a revolutionary technology can change the world forever. --Paul Hughes

From Publishers Weekly

HTwo titans of hard SF--multiple award-winning British authors Clarke (Rendezvous with Rama, etc.) and Baxter (The Time Ships, etc.)--team up for a story of grand scientific and philosophical scope. Ruthless Hiram Patterson, the self-styled "Bill Gates of the twenty-first century," brings about a communication revolution by using quantum wormholes to link distant points around Earth. Not content with his monopoly on the telecommunications industry, Patterson convinces his estranged son, David, a brilliant young physicist, to work for him. While humanity absorbs the depressing news that an enormous asteroid will hit Earth in 500 years, David develops the WormCam, which allows remote viewers to spy on anyone, anytime. The government steps in to direct WormCam use--but before long, privacy becomes a distant memory. Then David and his half-brother, Bobby, discover a way to use the WormCam to view the past, and the search for truth leads to disillusionment as well as knowledge. Only by growing beyond the mores of the present can humanity hope to survive and to deal with the threats of the future, including that asteroid. The exciting extrapolation flows with only a few missteps, and the large-scale implications addressed are impressive indeed. For both authors the novel's conclusion takes place in familiar thematic territory, offering a final, hopeful transcendence for humanity. With Clarke's and Baxter's names behind its potent story, this one could sell big--and to the movies as well as to the reading public. $250,000 ad/promo. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Too much rambling and useless character subplots.
The is a book which is the colloboroation between Grandmaster Sir Arthur C. Clarke and hard science fiction writer Stephen Baxter.
Jay A. Weinstein
While not a bad read, I think the book tried to cover way too much ground in 300 pages.
T. Niles

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Matt Hetling on October 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
An entrepreneur in the spirit of the old guy in Jurassic Park proudly unleashes an invention that will have worldwide consequences. His "worm cam" allows the user to open a portal anywhere in the universe, at any time in the past. The invention and its effects on humanity are explored as they eventually unravel the secrets of the past, and alter the evolution of humans. Interspersed with this background is a human story involving a beautiful journalist, and the family of the entrepreneur including divorced wife, two sons, and their half-sister.

The Good and the Bad:

Clarke hits a home run with the science fiction end of it, and this is purely where the good rating comes from. The futuristic world seems believable, and the technology is put to use to answer a whole host of questions that we have fun asking-what really happened to Jesus? What is the track of human evolution? What would the response be to a sudden and total lack of privacy?

The human stories, however, are cartoonish and leave much to be desired. The entrepreneur is like the guy from Jurassic Park, and none of the characters achieve more depth than the characters of that movie. An attempt is made, but it is ultimately poorly done, as is a plot involving a kidnapping and a physical struggle in the climax.

What I learned:

The book is thought-provoking, and raises interesting hypothetical questions. What would it be like to strip away the lies we tell ourselves of our own past? Where in history and outer space would I travel? How much shame would I endure for my own past?
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Stephen M. St Onge on June 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've been a fan of Sir Arthur Clarke's science fiction for most of my life. I haven't read anything by Stephen Baxter before, but after this I will. They've produced a real winner here.
As they say in the afterword, the idea of a machine that can see into the past and through walls is an old one (I especially recommend "E for Effort," by T. L. Sherrard, if you can find an old copy of the ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION ANTHOLOGY). Clarke and Baxter managed to make it new and different.
The key to their achievement was to anchor it to a rigorously imagined physics. The "wormhole camera" turns out to have uses and implications that its inventors don't expect, and it leads off in many strange directions.
I don't want to give away surprises, but I started this book expecting to be able to predict everything that would happen, and I was repeatedly taken by surprise.
There are a few flaws in this novel (for instance, the POW camp scene, which apparently has no purpose whatsoever), but almost everything is topnotch. The characters are mostly believable, the future world is interesting, and the ending was a delight.
Highly recommended.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Christopher Coleman on February 3, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Science Fiction, from its earliest days, has been decried by its critics as immature, pulp fantasy. Often this has been a well-deserved comment, as all too much science fiction is neither good science nor good fiction. Take an intelligent twelve-year-old to the movies with you and you are likely to hear, "Well, the alien was cool, but space is a vacuum and you couldn't hear the explosion, and the fire wouldn't have burned like that cause there's no atmosphere to burn, and anyway, why weren't they all floating around, cause everyone knows there's no gravity in outer space!", or some such. But many modern day science fiction writers, following the lead of such giants as Arthur C. Clarke and Issac Asimov, now incorporate good science into their works--thus the term "hard science fiction." Stephen Baxter is one of the hardest of these hard sci-fi writers, and his co-authorship with Clarke of "The Light of Other Days" fulfills its potential as the book is rich with the consequences of a speculative technology. In this case, we have, not time-travel, but time-vision and omni-vision. With the development of the "WormCam", a videocamera that can see macroscopic images anywhere in the universe and anywhere in the past, humanity faces a crisis of self. Compounding the issue is the impending crash of a gigantic asteroid into the Earth, which seemingly cannot be averted and which will almost surely destroy all intelligent life. (That the asteroid is called the Wormwood, the camera is the WormCam, the place the camera was developed is the Wormworks, and the phenomenon on which the technology is based is the Wormhole is all a bit much, and leads to some confusion on the part of the inattentive reader. But that's another can of worms...Read more ›
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bobby Gadda on March 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Imagine you own a piece of technology that allows you to view any event, in the present or the past. This technology, and its effects on society are made real through "The Light of Other Days" by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter. This book is set about fifty years from present, when the Earth is inundated with advanced technology but still retains the basic problems man has endured for all time - war, famine, water availability. A visionary company and researcher invents a WormCam - a device that opens a wormhole anywhere in the past or present. Through this wormhole anything can be viewed exactly as it happened (or is happening). At first this "time viewer" is used for news stories, voyeurism, spying, etc, but as the public gets hold of it, sweeping changes begin to occur in society. I have heard this book labeled as "hard SF" (hardcore science fiction) but I believe that even people mildly interested in science fiction would enjoy this book very much. What really captivated me was how the book started out fairly close to modern times, but then showed the rapid, awe-inspiring change in the human race as the wormhole technology finds new applications. Perhaps even bringing humanity to a kind of transcendence. As the FBI agent Michael Mavins of the book argues: "I have the feeling that wherever we're going, wherever the WormCam is taking us, it's somewhere much stranger." This process and the trials of the human race along the way make for an exciting and a thought-provoking read.
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