Review (part 1) – Obelisk by Stephen Baxter

Posted: December 1, 2016 in Sci-Fi
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A collection of short stories set in Stephen Baxter’s Ultima and Proxima novels, along with other works, Obelisk is testament to the author’s prowess.

I read Proxima not so long ago and so I was eager to jump in to the related short fiction presented in this book. On Chryse Plain is like a piece of impressive flash art; a self-contained, expressive snap shot of life (produced in Baxter’s universe). Two young Martian settlers are going about their duties, discussing the elder’s imminent arranged marriage. A tourist from Earth crashes into them, causing all three to be stranded out in the dusty plains of Mars. A story of survival that actually focuses on the relationships between these human, yet alien, characters, On Chryse Plain is a clever look at the wider world building at play.

From that very human story, the next in the collection is a frightening imagining of the very alien consciousness of Artificial Intelligence. As Earth struggles under the weight of climate collapse, the emerged AIs have shown just how far from human concerns they are, physically, intellectually and in terms of time scales.

Resurrected from data sources, former cop Philimus is tasked with trying to converse with Earthshine, the smallest of the AIs. Accompanied by a Vatican priest, Philimus must engage in both the real and virtual in an attempt to uncover the meaning behind some data clue. It’s a terrifying encounter.

In A Journey to Amasia, Stephen Baxter touches not only on a dark future of climate change and resource scarcity but also the very alien and different nature of artificial intelligence. A brilliant and considered story.

Review copy
Published by Gollancz

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