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Vacuum Diagrams Mass Market Paperback – April 3, 2001
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Filling in the gaps on Baxter's ambitious, almost audacious, 10-million-year timeline called the "Xeelee Sequence," Vacuum Diagrams is a collection of revised, previously published short stories that bridges together his popular novels set in this same "future history"--Raft, Timelike Infinity, Flux, and Ring. Baxter's universe is rotten with life, from strange tree-stump-like creatures with superfluid ice skeletons to dark matter "birds" to sentient beings composed of pure mathematics. And Baxter's reverence for life's beauty, for its voracious robustness, is hard to resist--especially when it comes to humanity and its tentative, eager rise. The cycling timeline follows humans as they come into their own as a star-faring race, from their first sporadic steps to their near dominance of the universe and beyond.
Vacuum Diagrams is a great introduction to Baxter for those unfamiliar with him and a good primer for the other "Xeelee Sequence" novels. If you already love Baxter or the other novels in the sequence, Vacuum Diagrams is certainly a safe bet. Besides, any book that sends you scurrying quizzically after your college physics text deserves a closer look. Check it out. --Paul Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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 3,672 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.
- Maybe because of this, I found the book became a little bit tedious when I got to story 18 (Shell). 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 3000 AD, humankind develops new technologies that allow it to travel quickly through space. The solar system is colonized.Read more ›
CONS: Writing style is a bit dry
BOTTOM LINE: Great collection of related stories.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A collection of related stories set in Baxter's Xeelee Universe.
The memorable things about Baxter's stories are not so much his characters, nor his writing style, which is a somewhat stiff, but rather his ideas. Each story contained in this collection contains some form of scientific concept that defies any simple comprehension due to sheer scale, large and small. Sometimes travel spans universes, sometimes beings are microscopic in size, and sometimes artifacts are light years wide. Baxter's signature hard science is present here in a big way.
The stories average 14 pages in length but are packed with all these ideas. Many of the stories, spanning 5 million years, reference the same events or reference each other, which is always a secret thrill for a science fiction reader.
One huge plus in Vacuum Diagram's is the Xeelee Sequence Timelins listed at the back of the book. This makes it prerequisite reading for anyone wishing to dive into Baxter's 4 Xeelee novels (in Xeelee Universe order: Timelike Infinity, Raft, Flux and Ring).
When I was halfway through the book I was eager to write a book review. I would have given the book a 2 out of 5. In all fairness, I decided to finish the book, then write the review. I felt the book was disjointed, that the author often became tired of writing and filled pages with random thoughts just to finish his work. At the same time I was amazed at the technology mentioned. This brought the author to a 2 out of 5 instead of a 1 or 0.
I kept reading. I'm too cheap to spend 8 bucks for a book and not finish it. I'm glad I didn't throw the book away. When I finally finished I was stunned. This is the first book I've read by Stephen Baxter, but it will definitely not be the last.
I've read science fiction all my life. I was underwelmed by authors such a Ray Bradbury and exceedingly impressed by Zindell. None have ever gone as far as 'Vacuum Diagrams'. This book is an epic masterpiece encompassing the history of man as a footnote. The bigger picture covers 30 billion years and an ancient race trying to save the universe. I don't want to blow the story line so I'll just say, "If you like SciFi and Tech and you're not a dumby, read this book."
I've long finished the book and have done something I NEVER do. I read it for a second time.
I can't wait to read more books by this author. I hope they are as good as this one.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love the scope of Baxter's imagination. He thinks on a grand scale, sometimes reminiscent of E.E. "Doc" Smith. But the plots seem hollow. Read morePublished 17 days ago by Craig Berry
Great, expansive sci-fi opera. This is a collection of short stories spanning 10,000 years of galactic history. Read morePublished 2 months ago by C. Steele
I think Baxter is the best of today's SF authors....not many left....Published 9 months ago by Jesus Riesco
Astounding, brilliantly imaginative, and vast in scope, in both space and time. I am not a physicist, but the modern physics he invokes is plausible enough to allow me to suspend... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Alan Filipski
Very well done, exposes the imagination to a unique perspective.Published 11 months ago by Jack Hayford
Baxter's excellent control over advanced notions of nearly modern physics enables him to move easily and convincingly from Planck units to the megascale of the super cosmic and... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Victor Friedlander
Baxter does it again: looks literally millions of years into the future and paints a plausible path for mankind. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Devil MC-130P
Too much the same story he always tells and more confusing.Published 23 months ago by James T. Trombetta
Another outstanding Baxter book - complex story with some very imaginative science. Hard sci-fi at its best. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Anonymous