Just finished Stephen Baxter’s novel ‘Ark’. Absolutely marvellous, spellbinding, thoroughly recommended. It’s a sequel to his earlier, and equally magnificent ‘Flood’, so you should read that first.
The titles are fairly self-explanatory; ‘Flood’ tells the story, set in the next fifty years or so, of an Earth where the sea levels are rising at an exponential rate until, eventually, every land mass is underwater. It’s all about the breakdown of society, and the development of rafts and submarines as two of humanity’s three solutions to the crisis.
‘Ark’ deals with another of those solutions; the construction of an interstellar space craft, housing about eighty hand-picked candidates, travelling to an Earth-like planet around a nearby star. Even though the craft can travel faster than light, the journey still takes about ten years. The book’s about life on this space craft, cramped and sweaty, and then when they reach their destination, they discover the planet isn’t so great and have to decide whether to make the best of it, try for somewhere else another thirty years’ off, or head back home.
Both these novels are Steven Baxter writing hard science fiction disaster movies, but bringing in ideas about of survivalist psychology and sociology, and ultimately human evolution. What I loved about it, though, apart from the visceral delight of such a well-constructed and detail apocalypse scenario, is that it’s just all so damn exciting. Really – one of the set-pieces, for instance, is a rocket taking off in the middle of a war zone, complete with exploding helicopters. It’s blockbuster writing.
My only complaint is that I wanted the book to go on for another 500 pages. There has to be a sequel about how things turn out for the various groups of survivors fifty years later. I’m placing my order now.