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Manifold: Time Mass Market Paperback – November 28, 2000

3.3 out of 5 stars 134 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Manifold Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Leave it to the consistently clever Stephen Baxter to pull the old bait and switch. A story that begins as a hoary asteroid-mining tale, set in 2010 against the by-now familiar spiel of fulfilling humanity's pan-galactic Manifest Destiny, instead takes a bold, delightful ascent into a trajectory far more ambitious. To ensure its survival, humankind need not merely master the galaxy but also the flow of time itself.

Manifold: Time's would-be asteroid-miner-in-chief is bootstrap space entrepreneur Reid Malenfant, a media-savvy firebrand who's showed those crotchety NASA folks what's what with his ready-to-fly Big Dumb Booster, piloted by a genetically enhanced super-squid. But Malenfant's near-term plans to exploit the asteroids get diverted when he crosses paths with creepy mathematician and eschatologist Cornelius Taine. Applying Bayes's theorem and a series of other statistical do-si-dos, Taine convinces Malenfant that an inescapable extinction event--the "Carter catastrophe"--is nigh, and that even working to colonize the galaxy might not be enough to save humanity. The answer: build a Feynman "radio" to listen to the future and, by detecting coded quantum waves traveling back through time, divine the fate of human "downstreamers" and find the key to their survival. Space flight, time travel, and even squid negotiations ensue, while Earth is gripped in Last Days madness.

Once again, the award-spangled Baxter gives us sci-fi at its beard-stroking best, with an imaginative, audacious plot line that's firmly grounded in good science, reminiscent of Baxter's own excellent Vacuum Diagrams. --Paul Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Baxter is well known for both realistic near-future, alternate-history novels (Voyage) and the wildest sort of hard-science speculation (Flux; Timelike Infinity). In this first volume in his Manifold trilogy, he combines both types of story, beginning with what appears to be the straightforward tale of Reid Malenfant, a millionaire industrialist who tries to circumvent a near-moribund NASA and start his own on-the-cheap space program. Things soon take a strange turn, however, when Malenfant receives evidence both that humanity will be wiped out within the next 200 years and that proof of this claim can be found on a near-Earth asteroid named Cruithne. Throw in a race of mutant, starfaring squid; the sudden appearance on Earth of children with superhuman intelligence and a mysterious connection to the artifact Malenfant finds on Cruithne; a Cook's tour of literally hundreds of alternate universes; and a spectacularly unsuccessful romance with at least two endings, and you've got a novel that's as overgrown as it is misshapen. Baxter is the equal of Gregory Benford or Greg Bear when it comes to describing spectacular astronomical phenomena and truly weird science, and he shares with Arthur C. Clarke and Olaf Stapledon the ability to portray enormous vistas of time and space to great effect, but his characters can be clumsily drawn and his plots unwieldy. The first half of this novel could easily have been cut by 50 pages or so with little loss. Still, faults aside, there's plenty here to spark the veteran SF reader's sense of wonder. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Manifold Trilogy
  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; Reprint edition (November 28, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034543076X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345430762
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Royce E. Buehler on October 26, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This first volume of Baxter's "Manifold" triad is a tour de force of exposition masquerading as fiction. The writing is plenty lively enough, but this is the kind of hard s-f (one of the more satisfying kinds, for my money) in which the plot consists less in what happens to our heroes than in what dawns on them.
The characters themselves are two dimensional figures, stolen from old Heinlein stock, elitist and tiresomely self-confident and too crammed with genius to be believed. But that's okay. They are only there as screens onto which Baxter can project his dazzling tutorials on topology, time travel via retarded waves, paradoxical consequences of Bayesian statistics, sound ethical justifications for destroying the universe, and cosmology as a branch of genetics, among other perfectly serious loopy ideas. Who cares if the screen is two dimensional, if the movie succeeds in adding dimensions to your mind (almost painlessly) just for the price of admission?
The scale of Baxter's imagination is so large that I often couldn't settle on whether what I was reading was comical or awe-inspiring. And from chapter to chapter the scale keeps expanding. Think Olaf Stapledon on speed, and you'll hit near the mark.
Happily, volume one is completely self contained. So much so that it's not possible to conceive of a "sequel." The remaining two "Manifold" books take place in alternate universes that merely happen to include the same characters. So if you share my phobia of trilogies and tetralogies ("Do I dare crack this book, knowing that if I even half like it I'll have to read the rest to see how it comes out?"), fear no more. By the time this one volume is over, it has *all* come out, in spades. You can wait a decade or two to pick up the "next" volume, if you like, without dropping any threads.
If you like hard science fiction, you owe it to yourself to sample Baxter, and this is a fine place to start.
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For some reason, the current theories about just how our universe came to be and what its ultimate fate will be seems to have captivated many hard SF practitioners in the last few years. This book is certainly a member of that group (to the extreme!), but it also throws in backward quantum waves, quantum nuggets, Bayesian statistics, and an impending catastrophe that will literally wipe out humanity.
So there is certainly enough of the `hard stuff' to satisfy any science enthusiast. But what of the story? This, perhaps, is just as wild as the science, imagining a single individual, Reid Malenfant, trying to propel the world into true space travel, real exploitation of the resources available there, who is just rich enough, and brilliant enough, to possibly bring it off, in the face of the by now de rigor opposition by environmentalists, NASA, EPA, FBI, Congress, and all the rest of the alphabet soup. But Reid becomes sidetracked when he is led to see what he believes is a message from the far future, causing a change of target to a small asteroid with an unusual orbit locked to Earth's. The initial probe is manned by an enhanced squid, whose development and behaviors from a significant sub-plot. But discovered on the asteroid is an obvious `artifact', (clearly a crib from Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey), a glowing blue ring that apparently leads to other times and universes.
In the meantime, on Earth there has been a sudden appearance of `Blue Children', fantastically intelligent, semi-autistic, who quickly gain the abhorrence of almost all `normal' people as different, a threat to humanity as homo sapiens. Gathered together, these children apparently invent a machine to capture a quantum nugget, with perhaps dire consequences for the world.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
For too long Squid have been neglected in Science Fiction circles. This book partially redresses this unfortunate imbalance by featuring genetically enhanced squid, and their journey into space, as one of its story lines. The book bounds along on its scientific roller-coaster ride of ideas. For me this was the main pleasure of the book, but also its ultimate downfall. The breadth of ideas was astounding, as was the pace with which they were delivered. However, with so many ideas present, and some of them being very speculative, (and, on accasion flawed), I felt the fictional `house of cards' eventually collapsed under its own weight. Yes, the characters were one-dimensional, but this is hard sci-fi so it seems churlish to complain. If you want speculative science, you'll find it here in droves. If you remember to take a deep breath as you enter, engage your sense of wonder, and leave your reality check at the door, then I suspect you will enjoy the ride. In summary, not a great book, but one that was packed with interesting ideas and speculation. It was sufficiently enjoyable that I shall try another of the author's works, but this time I will look for something shorter, in the hope that it will have slightly fewer ideas which will therefore be given more time to breathe.
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People have criticised Baxter for his paper-thin characterisations. In my opinon, the fast-paced nature of Manifold: Time doesn't lend itself to great character development. You really don't have time to invest feelings in Reid Malenfant, Emma Stoney and the Blue Children, except on a superficial level. This is a story about mind-boggling science, the wonder of the Universe and just what human existence means.
Having just finished the book, I'm still in that post-brain-melt stage; the science is staggering. You can't fault Baxter for throwing in as many theories as he does, and every one of them is put to wonderful use. As a suggestion, have a connection to the internet open so you can research these theories as they crop up in the book. Reading about Cruithne and Caribbean Sea Squid added a wonderful sense of learning to the novel.
If you're looking for a thought-provoking, hard science novel that never lets up until the last page, I thoroughly recommend Manifold: Time.
You'll love the one-line nod to Arthur C. Clarke's "2001".
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