Manifold: Time

Posted by : atcampbell | On : September 4, 2001

Manifold: Time by Stephen Baxter

Eleven people attended the discussion of Manifold: Time. This book tells the near-future story of Reid Malenfant, a tycoon dedicated to bringing mankind into space. The book invokes several classic SF themes: space exploration, the education of gifted children, time travel, and first contact with aliens. Seven of us at the meeting had read the book, and the rest had not started it.

We enjoyed reading a traditional hard SF novel. It was fun to read about people building spaceships, going into orbit, visiting the moon and asteroids, and exploring time and space. We liked the use of intelligent squids as space pilots. The time travel element is cleverly used to explore recent theories about how galaxies and universes age. This book is brimming with interesting ideas.

There were some problems. Many of us felt that the characters were shallow and the book was filled with long-winded lectures. There were too many ideas to explore fully. Several details about space science were just wrong, which jarred those of us who know about such things. Many of the book?s central ideas were derivative of famous SF works. Everyone was reminded of Heinlein’s “The Man Who Sold the Moon”, and most were also reminded of Clarke’s Childhood’s End and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Overall we found Manifold: Time to be a mixed blessing. We appreciated Baxter’s obvious enthusiasm in writing a grand space adventure, but found the story too unoriginal and too flawed to give a strong recommendation.

Afterward we had a nice dinner at Ped’s Lemon Grass Asian Grill, a new restaurant next door to Adventures in Crime & Space.

–A. T. Campbell, III