Ring (The Xeelee Sequence)
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 1998
Hard SF the way it can and should be written. Baxter creates well-drawn and interesting characters and sets them loose on an adventure of truly mind-boggling scale. I haven't read any of his stuff before, but that's gonna change, now! "Ring" reminds me most of Kim Stanley Robinson's "Red Mars," which won a well-deserved Hugo Award. It's positively bursting with well-thought-out and captivating speculation and extrapolation, and most of the time I was reading, I just kept shaking my head in amazement at the scope of the ideas. You may learn more about stellar physics or superstring theory than you'd like to, but hey, that's hard SF, and Baxter does a good job of keeping the science understandable. "Ring" occasionally drags a bit, but not for long, and I guarantee it will expand your mental horizons.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2006
is not Frodo, not even Sauron, but... the Xeelee?

I must admit that this books is more "The Silmarillion" than the LOTR trilogy: a lot of plain and descriptive narrative and lecutures-disguised-as-dialogue, not much engaging drama and action. Very tasty, in a super crunchy and chewy way, if you are into that stuff (like me); if not, well... But then again, I ask myself: for a book with a plot on such a scale, is any human drama viable? To give just one example: two factions are fighting a war in the universe. One of them hurls projectiles at the other as weapons of war. Their projectile of choice? Galaxies.

Yeah, it's THAT kind of big.

On such a scale, I think nobody, not Tolkien, not Shakespear, not even Homer can possibly write an effective human drama. We are simply too puny and utterly irrelevant. Everything that constitutes "normal" human drama -- ambition, betrayal, religion, politics, sex, power, romance, murder, conspriacy, utopia and dystopia, even life and death -- appears so insignificant that they are almost preposterous.

"Ring" may not be the finest science fiction, but it surely is scientific speculation on the grandest possible scale. There is just nothing else like it. Its "flaws," I believe, are unavoidable simply because our literature has not evolved beyond a time when 70 years is a pretty long life, and a transcontinental plane flight counts as distant travel. If and when, one day, our descendants can actually hop along the faultlines of spacetime at a pace of thousands of years and/or light-years a second, we may have an effective literature for this stuff. For now, Ring is as good as it gets.

P.S.: My admiration for this book notwithstanding, I'm still not sure why the photino birds want to turn out the lights; and just exactly what's up with Michael Poole? Strings and loose ends just shouldn't go together, you know? =)
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2002
Science Fiction has fallen into a woeful state in recent years. A quick glance at the local bookstore will see the shelves chuck full of unimaginative fantasy noveles and long sections of Star Trek, Star Wars, BattleTech books. I have begun to stray away from this side of the bookstore, simply because I have begun to find is depressing.
And yet, all hope is not lost! Upon a recent trip to the store I found a novel by Stephen Baxter entitled "The Ring". I had heard good things mentioned about him in the past and figured I might as well check the author out.
I bought the book and, several days alter, was finaly able to peel myself away from it. "Ring" is hard-science fiction at its best, tons of theoretical science mixed with characters who we can truly care about as well as descriptive language which still makes the hair on the back of my arm stand up. Baxter's description of the dying solar system still haunts me when I think about it.
Buy this book! At the very least its better than "Star Trek: The Mystery of Kirk's Hair".
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2000
I found 'Ring' to be a highly enjoyable and well written work of SF. The thing that impresses me the most about Baxter is the attention and care he pays to scientific accuracy and detail. His descriptions of the physics, astrophysics and cosmology involved are highly detailed and whilst not for the faint-hearted , make his novels much more believable and convincing than other works of SF. As SF authors who write about space go, he is in my opinion, the best one since Clarke. Whilst 'Ring' is depressing in some places, his portrayal of the struggle of the pathetic remnants of humanity on the Northerner to come to terms with the destruction of the solar system, the death of the sun and the inescapable conclusion that they cannot remain in this universe is beautifully done. The scope of the novel in terms of time and space are mind boggling but at times the plot stagnates and pays perhaps too much detail to the development of the shallow characters. Another flaw is that the novel in general is somewhat far fetched, at least compared to his other novels (i.e. the Photino Birds and what they do to the stars) but the general ideas are as chilling as they are plausible. Although bleak, depressing and uncompromising at times, 'Ring' offers a dark vision of what humankind's stupidity and arrogance can lead to, but at the same time offers a hope as to what tremendous possibilites and wonders await our species if we accept our vulnerability and take the bold steps into the blackness and find out what the cosmos has to offer, for better or for worse.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2001
Alright; the characters are sketchy, the writing is patchy and the pacing is interrupted by long info-dumps. Fine. If you don't like Hard Sf don't read this book. If you do like a rattling space adventure which not merely nods at science, but is actually inspired by it, then Ring is for you. Particularly impressive at the audaciouness of it all, the scope, the way Baxter reinvents standard SF tropes. A strangely gothic tale for Hard SF, as well; a story of people battling to survive in a dying and hostile ruled beings greater than ourselves, and incomprehensible to us. Baxter understands the majesty of decline and entropy better than the American SF writers (Post imperial Britain and all that), and uses it. The reaction reminds me of what Thomas Disch said of Hal Clement (another hard SF great); '...dense, but so is pecan pie.' Dense, and rich with ideas.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2005
I absolutately flew through this book! It was amazing. The story seems predictable at first, though the reader will quickly find that this is not true. I read this book without realizing that is was part of a series (believe me I am going to be reading all the books in this series) and it stands alone just fine. All relative information needed is rehashed for the reader quickly. The imagination this guy has is truely humbling.

Bottom line: Buy this book without delay!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2002
I'm not normally driven to write a really critical review, after all it's so easy to say "I hated that novel". Well, someone else probably liked it just as much, so where's the value in that?
But I've read plenty of hard Sci-Fi over the years and I really can't remember a drier or more barren Sci-Fi novel than this one.
This is my first SB novel, and I picked it up solely on the recommendations for SB by Arthur C. Clarke himself. (sorry Arthur)
Hard science can be a wonderful instrument in a novel to hold a reader's attention in the universe being created, but I remember little more from this novel than the internal workings of the Sun.
Other reviewers have alluded to the "textbook" quality of this novel, and I have to agree. I skipped the last 100 pages just to end it all, and read the final 20. I've never done that before.
To be fair to Stephen Baxter, I do have "The Time Ships" on my shelf ready to read, so I reserve judgement.
Seriously though, I never felt real affinity with any of the characters, and the "Sun character" that held so much import in the bulk of the story, was disposed of summarily after the fact.
Look elsewhere. Try "The Mote in God's Eye"
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2005
I'll just say that I'm a hard core Clarke fan. And I really enjoyed this book. Perhaps the story is a little "jumpy" at the beginning, and perhaps, too, the characters are not as well developed as in other works. But still, this book has many of the attributes I look for in sci-fi: an epic view of the history of the universe, a look at humankind in this context, an effort to imagine other types of life, and a scientific support coherent enough to be believable.

Again, if you enjoy reading Arthur Clarke, I'd bet you will love this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2002
Baxter is very good with up-to-date science, and if you want a science lecture on stellar dynamics, dark matter or singularities, this is a good textbook for you. But if you want a highly engaging story with developed characters, I'd skip this one. Mr. Baxter's editor must think that characters are just window dressing, in which case the characters in Ring are perfect, because they display all the life signs of a group of mannequins.
Although the science is generally very well used, there are plot inconsistencies which really bothered me. For one thing, this story is supposed to take place in two time frames: 1000 years and five million years. This little detail seems to be ignored when in comes to showing character development and technological development. 1000 years is seemingly enough time for the technology to have improved quite a bit. Five million years should have enabled technological development to answer all the problems faced by the crew of the Great Northern. I have to say that the only reason I finished this book was because I was on vacation and had nothing else to read. It was, I think, about the driest read I've had since the last Rama book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This book was great to say the least. Finally someone decided to write a decent peice of hard sci-fi. Clark is right, Baxter is a major talent. I thought that the "hard" parts of the book (the technical parts that make it "hard sci-fi") were not only fresh and original but they were explained throughly and in a way so that they could be easily understood. I have read other authors who have literally given the mathmatical equations to explain their theorys. Another aspect that makes this book so wonderful and enjoyable is the interesting character involvement and the character conflict which takes place on the ship. I am truly baffled at the claims of some of the other reviewers that the characters and plot were poor.
Baxter mixes in superb hard sci-fi ideas, in an understandable format with interesting characters and plenty of internal and external conflict that they taught you about in English (man vs. man, man vs. himself, etc.) In all, Ring is a masterwork of literature I would reccomend to anyone along with anything else Baxter's written. Especially Raft.
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