This is one slots in the bookshelf under Speculative Fiction with Ridiculously Big Numbers (subsection: Epic). And a book with numbers as big as this can’t really be told as a straight novel, so Baxter has written two stories for the price of one.
The first story features John Hackett, an emotionally-troubled astronaut tasked with exploring the Andromeda Galaxy. For him, it’ll be a short hop: about thirty years or so, which he’ll spend asleep, travelling in a spaceship the size of Jupiter. But due to time dilation, by the time he returns to Earth, millions of years will have passed.
The second thread was a little more intriguing: Mela is a young woman growing up on an Earth-like planet that is slowly dissolving. As the land disappears, the one hundred million inhabitants are forced to travel northward to wait for the end of everything.
This is one of the those occasions when I buy a book in hardback. Why? Well, two reasons:
The fantastically over-the-top cover design.
It’s one of the books I’d like folk to see on the shelf, or on the coffee table, or in the office, or on the passenger seat of the car.
I’m not sure where this book fits in the genre list; it’s based on the diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho, an ex-slave who, through his own ingenuity, and I will concede, the kindness of others, escaped his destiny of life-long, unrewarded servitude, to become a noted musician, writer and abolishonist in eighteenth century England.
Interestingly enough, the book was written by Paterson Joseph, an English actor who’s cropped in just about everything over the past twenty years or so. He started out in Peep Show, if I remember rightly, and since then he’s performed on stage as well as TV, and has also found the time to knock out a book or two.
The life of Charles Ignatius Sancho is obviously a passion of his, because he’s also behind a stage play about the same character.
Back to the book. Since it’s based on the diaries of a genuinely historical figure, then I’m going to put in the creative non-fiction bracket. Thinking about it, I think we can go a little further and pidgeon-hole it further into that miniscule section of the book market entitled Literary Creative-Non-Fiction of Outstanding Calibre.
Yup, it’s that good.
The writer notes that this is based on the diaries of main character, and as such, he’s embellished in places, though the story still carries the authentic thread of Sancho’s life.
I really liked Relic by the same author, so I thought it was worth giving another one of his books a punt. A random stab on Amazon brings up a Call To Arms, a story (number one in a trilogy, I think) about a galactic war between two cultures.
One alliance (the Amplitur) seeks to unite every being in the universe in the undertaking of one great Purpose.
The other alliance (the Weave) would rather not.
And so, the battle rages on for centuries, with both sides recruiting civilisations, but neither side really gaining advantage. The problem is deceptively simple: each side believes heart and soul in their cause, but each side has evolved beyond the savagery, the desire for violence, the selfishness, the innate sense of superiority they need to win the war.
Then on a routine scouting mission, the Weave encounter a creature from a race who may have the destructive qualities that can turn the tide of the war.
The creature’s name is Will, a frustrated music composer from New Orleans.