by Stephen Baxter
Prior to reading this book, my only experience of Stephen Baxter was as a co-author with Arthur C Clarke and Terry Pratchett, so I decided to try his solo work. I chose “Proxima” as it was a recent book and is one of the few that does not form part of a series.
My first impressions were good. The characters are interesting and right from the start you can see there are good back-stories and interesting personality clashes. I was also intrigued by the dual story-line, following two completely different sets of characters, separated by decades and light years of space.
Stephen Baxter’s skill as a story teller is obvious as each of the stories unfolds and the characters and their stories begin to take shape.
But then the plot begins to take a rather strange turn. The discovery of a mysterious “hatch” triggered a memory of the TV series “Lost”. And remembering how badly that ended, with a twisted plot and so many loose ends it was positively frayed, I got a little concerned.
But this isn’t a TV series, it’s a highly praised Science Fiction novel, so I shouldn’t worry about things like that.
At this point the two different stories begin to merge and take a whole new direction. It remains tight and well written, with the characters continuing to develop and grow. The science is imaginative and well explained and I really enjoyed the book – until the end!
The premonition I had with the discovery of the hatch turned out to be well founded. The book ends without any attempt to answer many of the questions it raises. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise interesting book. I know that sometimes science fiction writers like to leave the reader with something to think about, but in this case I felt slightly cheated. Will I read another? Maybe, but I will pick it much more carefully next time.