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Stephen Baxter's highly acclaimed first novel and the beginning of his stunning Xeelee Sequence. A spaceship from Earth accidentally crossed through a hole in space-time to a universe where the force of gravity is one billion times as strong as the gravity we know. Somehow the crew survived, aided by the fact that they emerged into a cloud of gas surrounding a black hole, which provided a breathable atmosphere. Five hundred years later, their descendants still struggle for existence, divided into two main groups. The Miners live on the Belt, a ramshackle ring of dwellings orbiting the core of a dead star, which they excavate for raw materials. These can be traded for food from the Raft, a structure built from the wreckage of the ship, on which a small group of scientists preserve the ancient knowledge which makes survival possible. Rees is a Miner whose curiosity about his world makes him stow away on a flying tree—just one of the many strange local lifeforms—carrying trade between the Belt and the Raft.

251 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1991

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About the author

Stephen Baxter

175 books2,288 followers
Stephen Baxter is a trained engineer with degrees from Cambridge (mathematics) and Southampton Universities (doctorate in aeroengineering research). Baxter is the winner of the British Science Fiction Award and the Locus Award, as well as being a nominee for an Arthur C. Clarke Award, most recently for Manifold: Time. His novel Voyage won the Sidewise Award for Best Alternate History Novel of the Year; he also won the John W. Campbell Award and the Philip K. Dick Award for his novel The Time Ships. He is currently working on his next novel, a collaboration with Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Mr. Baxter lives in Prestwood, England.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 261 reviews
Profile Image for Dirk Grobbelaar.
550 reviews1,064 followers
August 21, 2013
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!”
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews780 followers
January 24, 2014
The first time I attempted to read Raft I gave up after may be 20 pages. I just could not make head or tail of it. It was my first Stephen Baxter book and I almost gave up on him. Still, he is one of the most highly regarded science fiction authors working today and I just have to keep up with the sci-fi Jones. Baxter’s best known work is probably the Xeelee Sequence of which Raft is said to be the first volume (in publication order). However, I do not recommend reading Raft first, especially if you have a fairly tenuous grasp of science like I have. The setting of Raft is weird and I personally don’t think Baxter explained it very clearly, I think a prologue or some kind of expository chapter would have come in very handy. In any case, not wanting to give up on Baxter I asked around for a reading order of the Xeelee Sequence and received several suggestions that Timelike Infinity should be read first which I duly did and I quite enjoyed, a lot of the science still escaped me but the story is easy enough to follow and quite enjoyable. Then I read Ring which is marked as #4 in the series but actually follows directly from Timelike Infinity. I am actually reading these books as parts of the Xeelee omnibus edition (saves money you know). Anyway, Raft and Flux can be read as standalone novels, and I find that they are easier to understand after reading Timelike Infinity and Ring first.

OK, enough longwinded intro, on with the longwinded review. On this second attempt of reading Raft I do find it much easier to follow and it may be the best of the three Xeelee volumes I read so far (Flux is TBR). The first chapter throws the reader into the weird setting of a universe where humans are for some reason (to be revealed in alter volumes) living in a nebula. Gravity is much heavier than our own beloved 1 gee and the people are scattered among The Raft (a floating flat metallic manmade structure), The Belt (mines located on burned-out star kernels) and a tiny “worldlet” occupied by “Boneys” humans who are somewhat deformed from living near the nebula’s core where gravity very heavy (5 gees I think). In this first chapter Rees the young protagonist is working in a foundry on The Belt and he somehow manages to stowaway on a floating tree to travel to The Raft in search of knowledge to satisfy his inquisitive nature. I am not quite clear on how these floating tree things work but they are basically used as crappy, very hard to maneuver little spaceships.

Anyway, once I became acclimatized to the unusual setting the story is quite straightforward. Basically the tiny sun in this nebula is dying which means that the nebula will soon be unable to sustain life. In order to avoid extinction the humans need to find some way of migrating from this dying nebula to a nicely functioning one.

What I know about nebula can be written on a postage stamp and leave enough room for a queen’s entire head but the novel’s plot trajectory (which is actually a keyword for this book) is easy to follow. It is a fairly exciting romp, with a race against time and Baxter even manages to squeeze in some social commentary concerning class systems and equality. As with all Baxter books I have read a lot of the science is beyond me but he is a skilled enough storyteller to convey the story. His prose is sparse as always, but he did make a valiant effort at characterization, I don't think this is his forte but it would be unfair and unkind to call his characters two dimensional. 2.5 dimensional may be. His dialogue is not too bad but the characters still have a tendency to growl a lot (I imagine that is what members of his household do at dinner time).

In spite of my complaint this is an enjoyable read, full of great sci-fi ideas. If you have a good grounding in science, especially physics you will probably have a field day. Onward to Flux then!
Profile Image for Phil.
1,613 reviews104 followers
February 7, 2022
Baxter's first novel (and first in the Xeelee Sequence) came out in the early 90s to some acclaim, and I can see why. I have read a fair amount of Baxter; he is something of a hard scifi guru known for his big ideas with realistic scientific flair. Beware, however, that there are no Xeelee here! This really is a stand alone novel.

Sometime in the distant future, a spaceship went through a hole in space and emerged in a different universe, where gravity is much stronger, and I mean much stronger! The gravitational force tore the spaceship apart, but the surviving crew found themselves in a nebula with breathable air. Hence, we have a classic survival tale amid various otherworldly hardships.

Our main character, Rees, starts off as a young 'miner' at the 'belt', a loose ring of connected structures orbiting a dead star about 50 yards across. Remember, though the gravity is different in this universe, and hence the dead star (primarily iron) pulls you at 5 gees at the surface! At the heart of the nebula is 'the core', presumably a black hole or something, that is pulling the young, small stars (and other matter in), and the belt orbits the core, along with 'the raft', a man-made platform that contains the remains of the original starship.

Over many generations, a nasty class structure has emerged, with 'crew' and 'scientists' at the top, manual laborers far below, and the lowest are the 'mine rats' that work the belt, trading plates of iron for food from the raft. The spaceship had several 'synthesizers' that gobble up the random bits of matter floating in the nebula and convert it into food, clothing, whatever.

Rees (for complicated reasons) believes something is going wrong with the nebula and is determined to go to the raft to find out why. One day, he becomes a stowaway on one of the 'trees' that are utilized to navigate the nebula and winds up on the raft...

This really reminded me of Niven's The Integral Trees, though that was set in a 'ring' around a gas giant. Both have strange creatures evolved somehow to live in the strange environment and humans trying to survive. Rees reminded me of one of Harry Harrison's classic young protagonists, such as found in Deathworld 1 (among others)-- strong willed, smart, capable of violence but more interested in ideas and solutions. Baxter always features either scientists or engineers and this is no exception (Rees, upon arrival at the Raft, begins his apprenticeship in 'science school').

So, on the plus side: fascinating world with a realistic portrayal of humans trying to survive after generations stranded there. On the down side-- a little derivative of other science fiction of the 1980s, albeit with a 'hard' scifi spin. This was a short novel, almost a novella, and reads quickly (unlike some of his later tomes dripping with science). Worlds of wonder for sure! 3.5 stars, rounding up!
Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
722 reviews1,406 followers
February 6, 2019
This story is built around a fantastic idea of increased gravity... and it's very interesting for that, but by the end I found myself rather disappointed in how thin the characters are and how little I cared that humanity actually survived in this situation. There's a lot of aging male scientists getting excited over hypotheses and very little genuine human feeling. So I'd say this fits in perfectly with older science fiction that's known better for developing ideas than for developing characters.
Profile Image for Toby.
831 reviews328 followers
September 2, 2012
What a nice surprise this was.

A highly entertaining science fiction adventure story from an author I have been informed is synonymous with hard SF, huge ideas and complex explanations.

I bought this one over a year ago and totally forgot about it. My recent exploration of new authors with the reading of The Mammoth Book of Future Cops encouraged me to try some Baxter, at which point I saw this book sitting on my overpopulated sci-fi shelf.

It was a remarkably easy read; a traditional adventure story that follows an ignorant young man as he fulfils his obvious potential to save the human race. His exploits all serve a purpose, each phase in his life preparing him (unknowingly) for the denouement. Said like that, it sounds quite dull but the ideas and style adopted by Baxter are what makes this stand out from your run of the mill swords and dragons fantasy epic that eat this formula for breakfast.

As a reader we take the journey with Rees, we are slowly educated as he is, Baxter drip feeding us information about this world, so that we learn only what the character would learn. This works wonderfully, allowing the imagination to run riot, questioning and reading multiple reasons for every new piece of unexplained information, excited to discover just what the hell is going on. For me, even reaching the conclusion my imagination was wondering what was going to be waiting for me on the final pages, populating them with all kinds of shocks, twists and macabre deaths.

And it is this that makes what would ordinarily be a run of the mill story, a novel I really enjoyed. This is not an incredible work of art, or a fantastic achievement in the genre that might otherwise get rated so highly BUT it is a highly enjoyable read nonetheless.

There are two quite disturbing chapters in this book, they follow one after the other too; the world of The Boneys is truly gross and unexpected and the chapter with the space whale was again totally unexpected and perhaps one of the strangest chapters of any book (that isn't deliberately weird from start to finish) I've ever read.

I'm very happy to have read this, I can't imagine a more welcoming introduction to the work of somebody considered a modern master of science fiction.
Profile Image for Efka.
453 reviews253 followers
August 30, 2020
You know, there's a beer brand, called "Dirty duck", that has a jolly Roger as a logo and a slogan "Quack yeah" that not so very subtle alludes to other possible versions of that slogan. Also, the beer is pretty decent, especially if you're not into very hipster(ish) and fashionable craft beer that has a lot of yolo swag, something like double golden ale, brewed with organic melon in a slightly charred bourbon casks, etc etc.

Now you may wonder, what does beer and particularly Dirty Duck beer has to do with Stephen Baxter's "Raft". Well, grasshopper, the deal is that this book is just like the aforementioned drink. Lots of seemingly disjointed, unmatchable or simply weird stuff, bottled in a single unit. And actually pretty decent!

But the beggining of this book had been like that beer - lots of wtf's, why, how and some sort of Fox Mulder/Kanye West weirdness aloy. Honestly, after a couple of chapters I had no idea what the hell is going on and why am I even bothering. Still, I gave it a chance, and turns out this is quite a good book, especially if you don't mind the quirks (or even because of them). I'm not even going to start a list though, that would be too long - but for the record, I'll leave it here: it is a medium-hard sci fi book, that has space whales. EDIBLE space WHALES.

Probably 'nuff said, gotta read it yourself to believe it. 3,5* would be a just rating for this book, but I just can't round it up to 4.
Profile Image for Rob Adey.
Author 2 books9 followers
June 14, 2012
It's easy to imagine that in his folder of notes for Raft, Baxter has reams and reams of sums and diagrams detailing how the unusual and varied gravitational set-up in this book hangs together. Maybe he even wrote a little program that shows animations of weird orbital mechanics. I'd like to see that.

Sadly, I doubt he can have written more than half a page on the characters who populate the tale, in pretty much the same sense that NPCs populate a Dungeons & Dragons module. Really, no-one in the book is drawn better than the supporting cast of a Doctor Who story, but there's no Doctor or Master or even Adric character to liven things up a bit.

I'm willing to cut SF a little slack - I know it's meant to be about 'the ideas' - but there's plenty of people who can do this kind of high-concept stuff with a decent level of writing (Adam Roberts comes to mind).

That said, I understand this was a debut and Baxter has changed a bit in the intervening two decades. I bought this as part of a Meemstiff Trilogy Xeelee Sequence omnibus, so I guess I'll give the rest of it a go. Though it looks like there's going to be space Ents. =(

Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews255 followers
January 29, 2015
5 Stars

Raft by Stephen Baxter is an intelligent, creative, and thought provoking science fiction novel. It border lines being a hard science novel as much of the physics, chemistry, and astronomy are worked out by the characters of the novel.

I should have reviewed this the moment that I finished it as I loved this book. The whole concept of the Raft like world, the nebula, and the caste system of the humans was remarkable. I loved the science involved and the way that this story unfolded around it. There are some highly imaginative things that take place that make this story more fun than plausible. Baxter' writing style reminded me of the style of Greg Egan.

Simply amazing science fiction that will have me grabbing book two.

Highly recommended for fans of the genre.
Profile Image for Ethan.
Author 2 books57 followers
October 14, 2016
(See another version of this review on my blog: http://examinedworlds.blogspot.com/20...)

If you like hard SF in general or Stephen Baxter in particular, you'll probably like this. It definitely has an old timey Arthur C. Clarke feel to it, right down to the fact that this universe apparently contains precisely two women (okay, that's slightly unfair, since there are other women mentioned in the background, but the reader only gets to know two of them). Nonetheless, there is an awful lot to like.

The plot starts out as a plain vanilla teenage-boy-discovers-he's-special and turns into an odyssey/messiah story as Rees, the aforementioned boy, goes on an epic adventure, figures out how to save (part of) humanity, and ends up as the reluctant leader. Some of the characters are interesting, but honestly, you're probably not a Stephen Baxter fan for the plot and characters. It's his patented Big Ideas you're after. And there are plenty of those.

The universe here is weird, really, really weird. Gravity is one billion times stronger than in our universe, so humans are big enough to exert a noticeable gravitational pull on one another. The humans, who are descendants of humans who mistakenly entered this universe hundreds of years earlier, live in a nebula and harvest the cores of dead stars for minerals. Some of them live on the eponymous Raft, while others are miners in the Belt, and a few more live in an even weirder place. There are space whales and flying trees. And more. Your imagination may not be able to keep up. Mine couldn't keep up with everything, but it sure was fun trying.

In addition to the philosophical, mind-expanding fun of imagining this universe, there's some food for thought about the value of curiosity, scientific reasoning, and imagination. Rees starts to fear that the nebula is dying, but nobody around him cares. He stows away on a flying tree to the Raft where he meets some Scientists, the only people dedicated to keeping the old knowledge from the original crew alive. Eventually there's an ill-advised revolution where people destroy much of the scientific knowledge that could save them, but then again, the miners were being exploited economically, so they kind of had a point. There's a lot more - far too much, I think, for such a relatively short novel. I like short books and I almost never want a book to be longer, but this one could use another hundred or so pages to flesh things out.

Another message of the book is that we're all in this together. It may be the best and brightest who save the day, but we're all human, no matter which universe we live in. And there's something valuable about humanity that's worth hanging on to for at least a little bit longer.

This is the first of the Xeelee sequence, but I don't think it really does much with the main elements of that series. It just takes place in the same multi-verse (maybe?), but it does make me keen to read more of the Xeelee books.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
Author 5 books83 followers
January 13, 2011
This is an alternate universe, lost-technology survival story. I enjoyed this one. A universe where gravity is exponentially stronger than on Earth is definitely a cool breeding ground for ideas.

My one nagging comment is that I was more enamored with the universe and the back-story than what was actually happening on the page. I really wanted more about how the ship got there and what those first minutes would have been like. As with all Baxter books I've read, characters take a back seat to ideas, which is why it's unlikely he would ever crack a 5/5 from me. Like some, I was put off by the flying trees a bit but I see that Baxter was trying to get our lost cousins to use their environment. More such references may have earned another star from me, but that's my personal preference. Having now read three of the Xeelee sequence books, and having asked the question myself before picking this up, I do recommend starting with Raft and reading forward. I like reading a series in publication order, simply because the author's ideas evolve as he moves along.
Profile Image for Metaphorosis.
718 reviews54 followers
July 25, 2016
4 stars - Metaphorosis Reviews

An Earth ship somehow crossed to a universe where gravity is much more powerful. Centuries later, the survivors have broken into three loosely connected groups - the Raft, the Belt, and the Boneys. Now, their world is dying, and the groups must come together to survive.

Raft is Stephen Baxter's first book, and the first of his that I encountered. I also think it's his best book. While Baxter normally focuses on solid science, this book does a considerable amount of hand-waving to make it all work. The galactic cluster seems to be full of breathable air, for one thing. Still, it's credible enough to work, and the ramifications of the strong gravitational force are interesting. For one thing, it's a very different milieu than most SF stories then or since.

Where Baxter's books normally fall down is on character. He seems so focused on credible science that he has no energy left over for characters. His books are technically interesting, but emotionally dry. His natural stance seems to be as a distant, dispassionate, almost clinical observer. Raft is an exception. It's not exactly brimming with personal drama, but its protagonist, the Belter Rees, is a genuine human with genuine relationships. He wants things, feels things, cares about people, etc. I wish Baxter hadn't left this human element behind when he focused more on science.

Raft isn't perfect. Both the science and the personalities are a little too thin. But it was definitely an eye-catching book, and one that induced me to buy many, many more Baxter books, until I finally accepted that the balance in this one had been something of a fluke, and that Baxter was really more at home with thought experiment fiction.

If you haven't read Baxter, this is the best place to start. If you have, but don't know Raft, you'll enjoy this. If what you want from science fiction is deep characters in an FTL ship, this isn't the book for you, and really nothing by Baxter is.
Profile Image for Esteban Vega.
84 reviews2 followers
February 3, 2016
Weird, but infantile.

The hero goes from impossible problem to impossible-er problem and you can't feel for him because, obviously, he'd come out triumphant.

The worlds depicted are marvellous, really, but very improbable. This is not hard sci-fi, despite posing a such. This is more fantasy than science.

"The Fountain" comic and movie were based on Raft. I think. I couldn't stop thinking and relating the trees flying across the nebula from this book and The Fountain.
Profile Image for Neda.
13 reviews15 followers
May 8, 2012
There is nothing in the world of literature that conveys such wonder and love of understanding and knowledge as good hard science fiction. It's really fantasy at its best. It's protagonists are not really main characters in the book, but world, universe itself; humans in it just provide human eyes and emotions through which we experience the beauty.

This book is not an a exception - we find ourselves in the whole different universe, the one in which gravitational force in billions times stronger then in our own universe. That makes for some spectacular sights - small, dense nebulas instead of broad galaxies, stars tens of meters in radius, burning through their life in couple of years, leaving dense iron core, new forms of life - vast, transparent whales, and small skywolves, and flying trees, migrating endlessly between the nebulas and spreading the life through the universe.

To that strange universe came humans - by accident - in a starship, which collapsed under its own gravity. Surviving humans took broken remains of their ship, and slowly carved a place for themselves, mining star cores for metal, harnessing flying trees as a means of propulsion, building dwellings from parts of the hull, which became miners homes and Raft - main "city". Thousands of years later, their nebula is close to dying, its hydrogen depleted, and survival once again imperative. But the society is a broken machine - Scientists hoarding the knowledge, Officers hoarding the power, Raft hoarding the food and water, miners dying in accidents and from starvation. Only way of humans surviving is migrating, like the whales, on the last piece of technology capable of enduring the journey in a gravitational slingshot around the nebula core. But there is space only for a tiny fraction of humanity.

In a sense of hard sf, I have nothing to fault this story - imagination of it left me breathless! - but to be perfect I'd like much more character development. I know that it's not primary for the story, but it would be nice, and I think the story would have benefited from more depth of human perspective. Don't get me wrong - I like characters, they are curious, and brave, and likable, but it would not be characters that I would remember when I recall this story. Which is the point, I suppose. But it's just personal preference. This is very highly recommended :)

Profile Image for Rick.
79 reviews1 follower
November 19, 2012
Reasonably entertaining novel, although some paper thin characterisations, especially of the bit-part actors such as the giant miner, the undeveloped love interest, and the “boneys”. It felt a bit dated and even a bit ludicrous in parts, especially when it comes to some of the scatological descriptions – relieving yourself out of the stomach of a living, rotating, “whale” whilst travelling through a nebula . Some of the technical explanations seemed unrealistic too, although I’m no scientist, I would have thought that in a universe with an enormous gravity constant there would be far greater challenges than those presented. The main character was reasonably rounded, although his intellectual curiosity in the midst of blind, dull acceptance is reminiscent of other SF books (e.g. City and the Stars by Arthur C Clarke). The hero’s amazing intuition doesn’t seem that amazing, only the stupidity of some of those around him. Worth a read, but no classic.
Profile Image for Otherwyrld.
570 reviews52 followers
January 8, 2022
I enjoyed this one about as much as I always seem to enjoy this authors works, which so far for me combine the best of worldbuilding with the worst of humanity. It's certainly a great background here, set in a nebula within a pocket universe where gravity is millions of times that of our own universe, and because of that is aging much more rapidly. This of course creates problems for the descendents of the survivors of a lost starship trapped in this universe.

It takes one rather improbable hero and a rather spectacular heroes journey to save at least some remnant of humanity, along with the native lifeforms (rather, they mostly save themselves - they know how to migrate to a new nebula when the time comes).

As the authors first published work, it sets a high target and mostly hits it. I just wish I liked his characters more.
Profile Image for Jake.
46 reviews3 followers
March 13, 2022
The universe of this book was imaginative and interesting. It's mainly what I liked about the book. Sure I could relate to the MC early on because of his curiosity, but too often later it felt like he did whatever the plot required rather than what I might imagine he'd do. Maybe it wouldn't have even been on my mind if the overall plot grabbed me more. When of course I want to see the general population survive, but would be glad to see *most* of the characters we've met die, it got me thinking most of the people were just plot obstacles rather than characters and apparently irritants from my point of view.

If you enjoy this universe early on, by around when Pallis is introduced, you may love this novella. I can recommend it for that, but not if you want great characters or a great plot.
August 6, 2021
I love the concept and the imagination is crazy I love it, although I don't think the descriptions of the universe hit me as well as A.C. Clarke's. I didn't find myself particularly gripped but I was interested in what would happen because of the unpredictability of Baxter's imagination.

One of my favourite parts was the idea of gravatic atoms, where the atomic particles are mini black holes and the materials and life and nature of that life this can create.
Profile Image for Warwick Stubbs.
Author 4 books9 followers
August 31, 2020
Suffered through characters that were all cardboard cut-outs. Seriously, kids programs, animated TV shows - actual cardboard cut-outs - have more rounded and interesting characters. If the editor or agent had done their job properly, they would have sent it back several times for rewrites. Sure the story and the setting is pretty out there, but this book was an awful slog for me.
Profile Image for Loreley.
358 reviews88 followers
September 15, 2021
ცუდი არ იყო მარა ბაქსტერის სხვები მირჩევნია, თან xeelee-ბის ხსენება არ იყო აქ, მარტო Bolder's Ring ახსენეს
Profile Image for Eivind.
68 reviews13 followers
September 19, 2017
The book deals with a small civilization of human beings that are the descendants of a crew that by some unexplained fluke ended up in another universe where the power of gravity is a whopping factor of a billion stronger than in this one.

That has fun consequences, like stars being correspondingly smaller and the nebula as a whole having a breathable atmosphere.

It's tagged as "hard" science fiction, but frankly the science of this is pretty squishy. Among the more notable errors are:

Still, if you're willing to ignore a rather large pile of such problems, then there's fun aspects of the central premise and those parts make the book worth reading if you're into strange hypothetical "what-if" scenarios. If you're really good at suspending disbelief then there's plenty of wonder in this strange new universe too.
Profile Image for Nicolas.
1,263 reviews63 followers
June 2, 2016
Ce roman part d'un postulat fascinant : et si la constante gravitationnelle était des milliers de fois inférieure à celle de notre univers ?
Les planètes et les étoiles seraient infiniment plus petites, la gravité d'un simple être humain serait sensible, et la vie locale serait réellement très différente.
Bon, par contre, projeter des humains dans cet univers est une tâche bien difficile, et je trouve que l'auteur y échoue un peu : envoyer ça par un vaisseau qui passe à travers un anneau "magique", puis laisser cette société se déliter dans le conservatisme, ça me paraît assez peu crédible. Surtout que les personnages ont, comme d'habitude chez cet auteur, un côté carton-pâte assez pénible.
Cela dit, dans la mesure où j'ai dévoré les 200 dernières pages en une soirée, j'ai quand même plutôt apprécié.
183 reviews9 followers
September 7, 2012
Bingo! I found a new "favorite author." This book combines the various elements I enjoy - a hard technology perspective set in a fantastical environment with understandable/believable characters. The scenario and situation Baxter weaves is so fantastic, yet peppered with enough "real science" to make it an engaging and fascinating read - one of the more enjoyable reads I've come across in the past few months.

This is the first of many books in Baxter's 'Xeelee Sequence' and I'm now looking forward to reading the rest - on to "Timelike Infinity..."
Profile Image for Johan Haneveld.
Author 85 books73 followers
July 24, 2019
8+ This was the first novel published by Stephen Baxter - but from the start it's clear where his greatest strength lies and how he would have staying power. If I understand the introduction by Alastair Reynolds correctly Baxter brought modern science back into sciencefiction - filling the void left by the greats such as Asimov, Clarke and Niven. Here was someone with serious scientific expertise, and a great, imaginative thinker to boot, with the creativity to explore even the most outlandish consequences of his 'what if'-questions. In this book we find one of his greatest 'what if'-questions. What if a human spaceship was stranded in a parallel universe, where the gravitional power is a lot greater than in our own? This would have consequences for the formation of stars, planets and other bodies, but also for the construction of habitats and the way to live on them. Also biology would be affected. Baxter tackles all these subjects with gusto. He is not a great stylist, writing in a clear manner, telling his story without too many florishes, but his world is flourish enough. There is the Belt and the Raft, the habitats where humans survive. But there is also the grim world of the Boneys (a bit of horror thrown in) and the weird biology of circular trees and hollow wales. There is the core and the strange gravimetric chemistry going on there (complete with its own forms of life), and other weird and awesome vistas. Anyone looking for a 'sense of wonder' in his scifi needs look no further, this is the real deal. The plot is a bit basic, and the protagonist could have been lifted from an Asimov or Clarke story- a kid with great insight in science. None of the characters are too deep, 2,5-dimensional, but that's the case in almost all Baxters novel. You don't read them to gain insight into the human psyche. You read them to stand in awe of space, time and nature and all the possibilities therein. In later novels Baxter would become more sophisticated in the building of his plots and bring more complexity, branching out more. This is pretty straightforward. There's also Baxters dim view of human nature on display, that would become even more prominent in further novels. And I must say, looking at the way the world and politics react to issues like climate change, the way the people here descend into chaos and bloodshed without solving the environmental issues at hand, just because they think they are being left out, is very prescient. Still, the ending here is a a bit optimistic still, so there's that. Anyway, I was glad I read this piece of old school adventure SF (with shades of Nivens integral trees), backed by modern science, and would recommend it for readers looking for the sense of wonder great SF provides.
Profile Image for Sammy.
1,229 reviews6 followers
June 24, 2020
That's it. Baxter and I are officially over. Done. No longer happening.*

I read Titan many years ago, and while I liked the idea behind the story, the book itself read like a manual on how to build and operate a rocket. I don't like reading manuals. In our house, hubby is the one that takes in the whole thing. I'm the one that impatiently tosses it aside. So Baxter and I were off to a rocky start there. (I had similar issues with Clancy and his The Hunt for Red October, but luckily he changed and our relationship was far longer and more rewarding)

But I decided to give Baxter another chance, so we sat down together and he proceeded to tell me about the Raft. And despite the utter bizarreness of people piloting flying trees through space, Baxter managed to drone on and bore me into a stupor anyway.
Sorry dude, it's not me, it's you, and I think I would like to see other authors. but have a good life, etc. etc.

*with the exception of The Long Earth series, as inviting one of the smartest and funniest authors that I know in for a threesome could possibly spice things up enough to keep things alive a little longer... ;)
Profile Image for Carlos Cardoso.
Author 1 book2 followers
March 3, 2023
This book was pretty bad. Set in one of the most inhospitable universes you can imagine, three groups of humans struggle to survive and, due to the fading nebula, try to find a way to fix it. Somehow, they all talk and think exactly like people from contemporary America even though they have been living in these completely alien conditions for so many generations they don't even remember Earth or our solar system.
Characters are flat and serve their function which invariably seems to be about pontificating shallowly about politics or going into long explanations about physics. Remarkably, a science that is neglected is biology as
There are some dubious politics on display, too, the most centrist and status quo supporting milquetoast politics you can think of. This is perhaps the most believable part of the book, as this community of humans disconnected for generations from its peers would probably be very stupid. An interesting concept which is never, ever explored, not even by the characters that show up to just represent a point of view, is why keep going in such a terrible place. At no point does anyone ask themselves if it's worth it to keep bringing more and more humans to suffer.
At this point, I was past caring, racing faster than a forgotten piece of technology trying to achieve escape velocity (insert pages of orbital mechanics here as Mr Baxter is fond of doing) from this terrible book.
Profile Image for Miglė.
Author 13 books369 followers
July 25, 2020
Šiaip nesu didelė sci-fi gerbėja, bet airbnb bute radau šitą Xeelee Sequence omnibusą, galvojau, paskaitysiu 100 psl, jei neužkabins, tai bala nematė. Ir ką - man labai patiko!

Knyga, kuri užuot kėlusi klausimus "o kas yra žmogus" tiesog įmeta skaitytoją į kruopščiai sukonstruotą, bet ganėtinai svetimą visatą, kur, drauge su neįprastai smalsiu working-class pagrindiniu veikėju, gali po truputį imti aiškintis, tai kaip gi čia viskas veikia.
"Žmonės nebuvo sukurti gyventi tokioje aplinkoje" - hm, tai kokia gi ta aplinka?
Ogi gravitacinė konstanta daug daug didesnė! Kas iš to? Nėra didelių žvaigždžių nei planetų, užtat galima iškasinėti metalą iš atvėsusių žvaigždžių, kad plausto populiacija galėtų remontuoti senovines mašinas. Tos mašinos kažką žino, bet žmonės nemoka iki galo išsiaiškinti ką.
Dar yra keistų vietinių gyvybės formų, išsivysčiusių gyventi tokioje aplinkoje - jos cilindrinės ir sukasi:) O jei... gravitacinė konstanta yra tokia didelė... gal galėtų susiformuoti gyvybės formos, kurių atomų ryšiai pagrįsti gravitacija?

Manau, esminė knygos vertė ir yra tos fainos moksliškos "what if?" idėjos. Personažai nelabai įdomūs, socialinių klasių santykiai meh, bet skaityti netrukdo. Nepaisant to, duodu penkias žvaigždes, nes tikrai maloniai nustebino.

Profile Image for Bert-Oliver Boehmer.
Author 2 books19 followers
March 1, 2022
Most SF writing has world-building, ranging from recognizable near-futures to fantastic space operas just barely grounded in possible reality. Stephen Baxter’s “Raft” takes world-building one step further and presents a world with different laws of nature. What if gravity would be a strong force? A billion times stronger than in our universe?

The humans stranded in Baxter’s strange world struggle for survival in different ways, but the general human condition, with all its flaws and glory, is very familiar and makes characters, and their actions, relatable. The story describes how humans adapted to a radically changed environment, only to fall back on their basic instincts, with disastrous consequences. The protagonist exemplifies what moved our species forward in this universe: a curious intellect, pushing the boundaries of the known, with an occasional dose of self-doubt. Will this be enough to save humanity in this fictional setting?

A great read, with the SF-typical stretch of getting accustomed to the world the author created in the first chapters. Once you are in the world and got your feet grounded on stars made from iron, the story flows, and takes the reader on a fantastic voyage!
Profile Image for jude.
232 reviews16 followers
December 1, 2020
reading this made me feel very dumb—but in a good way, if you know what i mean? it's that special kind of realising one is completely and utterly one's depth and being motivated to rectify that small tragedy... or perhaps not tragedy, since the moment has been transformed into opportunity.

before this book, i have never been much of a hard science fiction fan. space operas have coloured much of my forays into this genre, really. yet reading this felt like an adventure and a puzzle all at once. it also didn't matter that i didn't know a single thing of what this book was going on about, because i slowly came to realise that the main character also knew next to nothing and so i was going to learn alongside him.

it's a fantastic way of introducing the world and progressing the pace of the story. one comes to this book delivered directly into such a richly-drawn and compelling world, knowing next to nothing about it, and then one is invited to explore this milieu alongside the protagonist. it's a technique that works well, and i highly commend this author for drawing me in completely enthralled into a world filled with concepts that would have normally gone over my head.
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