More multidimensional mind warping

Written by
Stephen Baxter in 2014

The Proxima and Ultima duology are two of the best books I’ve read so far this year. Their scale is vast, spanning time, space and multiple universes. If you want big concept cosmological science fiction, these are the books for you.

Ultima brings the that story began so many pages ago with Yuri Eden, who wakes up on board the interstellar starship Ad Astra. Ultima sees him to his end, his daughter, Beth and granddaughter, Mardina pick up where he left off, together with Stef and Penny Kalinski, and some new characters from the various realities they hop between.

The first half of the book is, frankly kind of boring. Apart from one large cataclysmic event, a lot of character background and world building is accomplished, quite brilliantly I might add, to get you immersed in a new world. Then Baxter tears you away from it.

It is all done to set up the ultimate (hah, a pun!) conclusion and give it a bit of excitement. Except when you finish the book, put it down and consider what you’ve actually read, you realise the ending makes no sense. It’s contradictory. Anyway, I don’t want to spoilerise it too much.

Ultima, apart from spanning aeons of time unimaginable to us, makes you feel really freaking small. It’s so very effective at saying just how insignificant humanity is compared to the grand majesty of the cosmos. However, this is a book that requires patience, even more so than Proxima, because it has to move away from a singular narrative to explore each thread fully. It does it well, however.

Rating

Lovely followup to Proxima.

Read this if you…

Like big concept stuff spanning generations of characters and aeons of time.

Don’t read this if you…

Are impatient for things to happen. You will need to wait a while.

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