Dirk Grobbelaar's Reviews > Raft

Raft by Stephen Baxter
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Aug 21, 13

bookshelves: science-fiction
Read from August 31 to September 02, 2011

This is another of those novels that really gives your imagination a workout. The universe Baxter envisions here is probably as weird as they come. What I really liked about Raft, was that the reading style was actually quite accessible, considering the science behind all of this. Hard science it is, too. Infused with wonder, the world of Raft is discovered little by little as the reader follows the revelations and discoveries of the protagonist, who starts the story with about as much knowledge as the reader. That is, zilch.

Make no mistake, though. Despite the hard science fiction classification of this novel, more than a little suspension of disbelief is required. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to do, thanks to the brisk pacing and reasonable scientific assumptions. Of course, just what defines reasonable in a case like this, is difficult to gauge. Character development takes a distinct back seat. In a novel of ideas, however, that isn’t too big a problem.

Stephen Baxter, who apparently holds degrees in mathematics and engineering, poses some interesting challenges to his characters and utilises the physics of his universe to great effect. The universe revealed here is both a marvel and a threat, and this two-edged sword is central to the story. Baxter also seems to have a flair for the macabre, at least as far as the Boney world is concerned. Grim!

This is the first published novel in the Xeelee sequence, despite the fact that the Xeelee are, well, absent. That’s right, the Xeelee don’t feature in this novel at all. I’m not sure how it all ties together, but answers might be forthcoming in Timelike Infinity, which I certainly plan to read in the near future.

If you enjoy Larry Niven’s books, you may want to sample Stephen Baxter. Raft was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1992. I especially enjoyed the final pages of the book. In the words of one of the characters: “any minute now we'll get the really spectacular stuff!”
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Reading Progress

09/01/2011 page 96
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Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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message 1: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike I actually like Baxter more than Niven (argh, blasphemy!) but both challenge you with their ideas.


Dirk Grobbelaar This was the first Baxter I'd read, although I've read some of Niven's stuff. I'll reserve judgement for when I've read some more of Baxter's stuff, specifically the Xeelee saga. I really like Niven because he was one of the first SF writers I read extensively. I owe a debt of gratitude, since I probably wouldn't have been so into SF if it wasn't for Niven.


message 3: by Lynne (new)

Lynne King Dirk, A really nice review and here we are again with an author that I have never heard of. There are just too many books to read, with too little time. I wonder how many authors are actually documented in libraries in the world?


message 4: by Dirk (last edited Mar 16, 2013 02:15AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dirk Grobbelaar Thanks Lynne.

Yes I know. It's crazy. I am only in my thirties now and I'm already having to come to terms with the fact that I will probably not read all the books I want to in my lifetime, even if I live to a ripe old age. Oh well, I intend to at least give it a good shot :)


message 5: by Lynne (new)

Lynne King Are most of your books by recommendation or do you just "browse"?


Dirk Grobbelaar I tend to browse for books that appeal to me, and I read the reviews. It's difficult to qualify, but I read books based on the vibe I'm looking for. For example: I've been reading a lot of Horror novels lately, simply because that was what I felt like. I won't read a book simply for the sake of "having read it". Life is too short to read books that don't appeal. When I start feeling like I want to read Sci-Fi, then I'll go read a whole slew of Sci-Fi books. Or Fantasy. Or Mysteries. Or whatever.


message 7: by Tamahome (last edited Mar 16, 2013 07:33AM) (new)

Tamahome I dig the sun-chick in Ring. I should finish it.


message 8: by Guillermo (new)

Guillermo Azuarte @Tomahome Lieserl ! I forgot she was in Ring. She has a short story in Vacuum Diagrams too.


message 9: by Lee (new)

Lee I struggle with Baxter. I read Flux and felt like I wasn't smart enough to read his books.


message 10: by Dirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dirk Grobbelaar Tamahome wrote: "I dig the sun-chick in Ring. I should finish it."

I still have to read Ring. I've got the Xeelee sequence in an omnibus edition, so hopefully I'll get to it soon.


message 11: by Dirk (last edited Mar 16, 2013 10:49PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dirk Grobbelaar Lee wrote: "I struggle with Baxter. I read Flux and felt like I wasn't smart enough to read his books."

lol - don't worry, that's the way I feel with most Hard SF. I really enjoy it but I don't always understand it...


message 12: by Michael (new) - added it

Michael Dirk wrote: "Tamahome wrote: "I dig the sun-chick in Ring. I should finish it."

I still have to read Ring. I've got the Xeelee sequence in an omnibus edition, so hopefully I'll get to it soon."


That's funny, when you described it as "both a marvel and a threat", I immediately thought of Ringworld, although maybe I am remembering more of a threat than there was...

Sounds good.


message 13: by Alejandro (new)

Alejandro Wow, indeed seems like a great book. Thanks for making me to notice it.


message 14: by Dirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dirk Grobbelaar Michael wrote: "That's funny, when you described it as "both a marvel and a threat", I immediately thought of Ringworld

There is a rather significant difference though, since Ringworld is an object, albeit a vast one, whereas in Raft Baxter envisions a whole Universe with a different set of physical laws. It's mindboggling.


message 15: by Alejandro (new)

Alejandro Dirk wrote: "Michael wrote: "That's funny, when you described it as "both a marvel and a threat", I immediately thought of Ringworld

There is a rather significant difference though, since Ringworld is an objec..."


Wow! Indeed an overwhelming concept!


message 16: by Jeffrey (new) - added it

Jeffrey Have always been a big Niven fan. And I have some Baxter lying around in my digital library that I have always intended to read. Will have to push him on in my queue. Have you read other books by him? Is this series a good place to start?


message 17: by Dirk (last edited Aug 26, 2013 01:41AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dirk Grobbelaar Jeffrey wrote: "Have you read other books by him? Is this series a good place to start? "

This was actually my first Baxter so I won't be able to tell you whether there is a better place to start. This is, however, book 1 of his Xeelee saga (which is, as far as I understand, his best known body of work) so I suppose it's as good a place to start as any.


message 18: by Philip (new) - added it

Philip Dickinson Thanks Dirk. I've put that on my reading list. Sounds fascinating!


message 19: by Dirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dirk Grobbelaar Philip wrote: "Thanks Dirk. I've put that on my reading list. Sounds fascinating!"

It's a pleasure Philip. Thanks for the feedback.


message 20: by Tamahome (last edited Sep 03, 2013 08:43AM) (new)

Tamahome Looks like Baxter will go back to the old wild sf with the upcoming Proxima.


message 21: by Dirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dirk Grobbelaar Thanks for bringing that to my attention! Proxima does look awesome! I've added it.


message 22: by Guillermo (new)

Guillermo Azuarte Proxima looks great. Made my day to learn Baxter is going back old school to a far future universe again.


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