Richard's Reviews > Manifold: Time

Manifold by Stephen Baxter
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's review
Dec 24, 2011

liked it
Read from December 22 to 24, 2011

Spoilers ahead... Baxter is very reminiscent of Arthur C Clarke as an author. His books are always original and full of fascinating ideas. But, like Clarke, the plots and characters are always in service of the ideas, and disappointingly, they always leave me a bit cold.

This book is no different. The characters are generally unlikable and hard to sympathise with. They seem to make irrational and difficult to credit decisions whenever the story calls for it - for example when Malenfent first learns af the Carter catastrophe, he instantly believes it with virtually no thought or convincing. Or when Emma decides whether to join the crew of the mission to Cruithne.

As other reviewers have pointed out, the Carter catastrophe - the entire basis of the story - has been widely condemned as being based on a faulty understanding of statistics. Fitting, perhaps, given how readily people in the book believe it. There are other examples, too, of dodgy or jarring aspects. The excessive America-centrism seemed a bit out of place, and the 'whistle stop tour' of the descent towards fascism seemed a bit forced. Which is a shame, because as I said, a lot of the speculative ideas are really exciting. I would have liked to hear a lot more about the squid and their emergent consciousness.

I give the book 3 stars instead of 2 because the climax in the last few pages made up for a lot of the earlier bits. In my opinion, a really good Hard SF book should not ask the reader to suspend so much disbelief.

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