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Vacuum Diagrams Mass Market Paperback – April 3, 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews
Book 5 of 6 in the Xeelee Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ironically, you'll probably appreciate Vacuum Diagrams most after you've put it down. The prolific and acclaimed Stephen Baxter has always been praised for his imaginative and conscientious use of science, and Vacuum Diagrams is no exception. This collection of short stories will leave you ruminating for days over the sprawl of ideas, worlds, and life forms Baxter has woven together.

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.

Review

"One of the best in science fiction."-- "Science Fiction Chronicle""An epic of struggle and success."-- Don D'Ammassa, "Cleveland Plain Dealer""Enormously impressive."-- "Locus""Mind-stretching science fiction at its boldest."-- "Orlando Sentinel"
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Product Details

  • Series: The Xeelee Sequence (Book 5)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager; Reissue edition (April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061059048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061059049
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #397,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alejandro Contreras on December 18, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Baxter's main work is called the "Xeelee Sequence". It is a story of the future of the Universe, which Baxter tells in 4 books: Raft, Timelike Infinity, Flux and Ring.

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.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
PROS: Vast scope of ideas, steeply based in science, epic quality
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).
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I hope you read this review first.

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.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have read several of Stephen Baxter's novels, and this collection of his short fiction (including sections from several of his novels) is by far the best way to be introduced to his ideas. Stephen has a real talent for formulating mind-blowing ideas based on hard science. What he doesn't have a talent for is developing characters. This book gives you an overview of his ideas, without boring you with his characters. It is all plot and exposition. The only way that I would improve this would be to lose the redundant stories about how marvelously adaptable life is.
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Format: Paperback
It was absolutely unbelievable. Baxter had me convinced that it actually happened. This man's storytelling ability is unparalled. I am an avid Clarke and Asimov fan, but this tops the cake, even better than his previous masterpiece Ring, if you never read another book the rest of life, read this one.
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