For me, Ultima was better than Proxima, I was interested in following the story, and I did grow fond of the Roman Legionaries including the one armed legionary, Titus Valerius, However, I got to a point in the book where the journey ended for me and I found it hard to pick up and finish...
Ultima - Stephen Baxter.
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Fresh from his latest collaboration with Terry Pratchett on the Long Earth sequence Stephen Baxter now returns to the mysteries and challanges first hinted at in his acclaimed novel PROXIMA. In PROXIMA we discovered ancient alien artifacts on the planet of Per Ardua - hatches that allowed us to step across light years of space as if we were stepping into another room. The universe opened up to us. Now in ULTIMA the consequences of this new freedom make themselves felt. And we discover that there are minds in the universe that are billions of years old and they have a plan for us. For some of us. But as we learn the true nature of the universe we also discover that we have countless pasts all meeting in this present and that our future is terrifyingly finite. It's time for us to fight to take back control. This is grand scale, big idea SF of the best possible sort. It is set to build on the massive success of PROXIMA and define Stephen Baxter's work going forward.
- Great start.
- More enjoyable read than Proxima.
- To many stops for 'lectures' to move the story along.
- As with Proxima, excellent world building, lots of thought put into it.
- May see more books in this 'universe'.
If you are after a run down of the story line you can read this review at the Tor.com Blog
Thoughts on Ultima
I have read other works by Stephen Baxter and loved them, his 'Long Earth' series with Terry Pratchett, I found immensely enjoyable it dealt with an Alternative Earth story line as well, which is one of the other reasons I chose the Proxima duology to read. While I still liked reading the story, it didn't work for me. A reviewer on Amazon put it this way.
What if the first 30 minutes of "Friday the 13th" was about the people building the original cabins back in the 50's. About laying out the plan of the camp, ordering the materials, clearing the land, unloading the trucks, pouring foundations, sawing, hammering, stopping to eat cookies, digging, plumbing, wiring, etc ... and you didn't know when something interesting would ever happen, though the movie poster led you to believe something scary was going to occur..... eventually. Maybe you would give up and try something else, which is what I did 20% of the way in to this book.
Jamesarr - Link
In terms of story telling, I think that Ultima starts off great. It continues from the point Proxima left off and although we lose our main character Yuri Eden within in first few chapters, his legacy continues. The story then follows his family line, daughter and grand daughter, along with other miscellaneous characters they pick up on the journey. Unlike Promxima which to me dragged in the first three-quarters and only picked up in the last quarter, Ultima did the opposite. The story meanders along through several alternative histories, one where Rome never fell and another where the Incan empire was able to dominate the world. Interestingly the Incans lived on a huge space station which was build by tearing apart the moon in order to create it, it had a land mass the size of Asia. Each of these civilizations were better at building the 'hatches' than the last. The central idea of the story revolves around tracking down the original creators of the 'hatches'.
Tries to answer the story of life
The duology tries to answer story of life, in this universe, maybe scientifically backed up with current theories but misses the mark in story telling. For example Baxter tries to break up the intensity of the subject matter, with toilet breaks... yes its now time for the characters to void bladders and drink tea before sitting down to continue the lecture.
If you are after an enjoyable story from Steven Baxter, I would recommend his 'Long Earth' series (co-authored with Terry Pratchett), but if you are after something more scientific, a story interspersed with lectures, this is the one for you.
Interested in checking out this series?Use the links below to grab yourself a copy, and support WolfsBooks at the same time.
The Long Earth
(Book 1 Long Earth Series)
In regards to 'stepping sideways' into alternative universes much preferred Stephen Baxters Long Earth series.