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by Stephen Baxter

classifications: Science-Fiction / Hard

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After reading primarily fantasy stories of late, Time was a refreshing change. The novel certainly lives up to its title. A cenetral section takes the protagonists through the future of the universe right up to its eventual heat death. Each skip is belivably realised, a surreal journey through fate.

Unsurprisingly, such time-travel related adventures abound in this tale, yet Baxter manages to describe the most complex twists of causality without losing his readers. Even re-writing earlier sections of the book as changes are made "downstream" simply flows naturally on, as if that was the way it always had been - which, of course, is now the case.

Time also manages, despite the fantastic extents the story covers, to remain within science fact, or at least science theory. Closed pockets of space-time, quark nuggets and other exotic concepts make their appearance, yet again, never manages to quite break your credulity.

With such an emphasis on the tricky physics, it is perhaps not unexpected that Baxter's characters are a little shallow. Not two-dimensional, by any means, but you get the feeling what depth is there has been added as an afterthought. The characters are primarily there to ensure the story happens the way it should (rather ironically, that is true within the context of the story itself, also). Motivation and emotion are not touched on in any great length, and the majority of the supporting cast have very little of either, in some cases.

None of that, however, really matters. The science is the star of the show, the sheer magnificence of the concept; not the small fleshy creatures that happen to be caught within it. This is back-to-its-roots science-fiction, and as such, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The theoretical side may, however, be perhaps too in-depth for some, and the sacrifice of character to science unpalatable.

For those of us more technically-minded, though, this is gripping and thought-provoking from beginning to end.

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