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Michael Poole's wormholes constructed in the orbit of Jupiter had opened the galaxy to humankind. Then Poole tried looping a wormhole back on itself, tying a knot in space and ripping a hole in time.

It worked. Too well.

Poole was never seen again. Then from far in the future, from a time so distant that the stars themselves were dying embers, came an urgent SOS--and a promise. The universe was doomed, but humankind was not. Poole had stumbled upon an immense artifact, light-years across, fabricated from the very string of the cosmos.

The universe had a door. And it was open...

502 pages, Paperback

First published July 1, 1994

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About the author

Stephen Baxter

394 books2,342 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 124 reviews
Profile Image for Dirk Grobbelaar.
554 reviews1,095 followers
February 24, 2022
What had taught her, in the womb? What was teaching her now?

I would recommend at least reading Timelike Infinity before taking on Ring. It just makes for a richer and more cohesive reading experience.

Now, something you should know about these novels: Baxter pulls out all the stops when it comes to the technical stuff, and he paints his stories on an unimaginably vast canvass. So come prepared, and bring medication.

And while she had dreamed, here inside the imperilled heart of the Sun, five million years had worn away in the Solar System outside. For all she knew there might be no humans left alive, anywhere, to hear whatever she might have to say.
...Still, she
itched to talk.

The story concerns itself with a five-million-year plan to save humanity from extinction. There, I’ve said it.

In essence, the book entails an attempt to prevent species extinction by duplicating the wormhole-time-dilation experiment of Michael Poole (refer Timelike Infinity). Only, this time, on a much, much bigger scale (five million years as opposed to 1500 years). It’s not going to be easy: creating sufficient relativistic time dilation differences between the exits of the wormholes entails a journey of a millennium (relative time), for one thing. As you might imagine, despite all the logistics and planning, this is a one time only shot, and the margin for error is, well, non-existent…

…that’s to say, if things go wrong, they go a whole new level of wrong. The question is: what is the backup plan?

"Tell me about the stars you saw," he hissed. "The stars..."

As with Timelike Infinity – this book had me gripped from the first page. Not only does the author imbue his story with the sense of wonder one would typically expect, he also serves up a bit of cosmic dread by showing us just how teeny tiny we are in the grand scheme of things. In the end, we are only observers to something taking place on a scale as to paralyze the mind.

"The cosmology here is... spectacular. We have, essentially, an extremely massive torus, rotating very rapidly. And it's devastating the structure of spacetime. The sheer mass of the Ring has generated a gravity well so deep that matter—galaxies—is being drawn in, toward this point, across hundreds of millions of light years. Even our original Galaxy, the Galaxy of mankind, was drawn by the Ring's mass. So we know that the Ring was indeed the 'Great Attractor' identified by human astronomers.”

The Ring of course, is the main attraction (no pun intended). It renders everything else I have read about, in terms of megastructures and artefacts, quite obsolete. It is a Xeelee artifact with a diameter of 10 million lightyears. While the ring is central to the story, it actually doesn’t feature all that much, and is only introduced into the story well past the halfway mark. This isn’t a bad thing: it frees the author up to tell a bigger story, incorporating the artifact without getting bogged down in it. What’s more pertinent to the story, is the ring’s purpose, or why it was built in the first place. And that in itself is a bit of a doozy.

He was the last man.
He was beyond time and space. The great quantum functions which encompassed the Universe slid past him like a vast, turbulent river, and his eyes were filled with the gray light against which all phenomena are shadows.
Time wore away, unmarked.
And then—

So if you like stories that run the whole gamut from earth to the end of the Universe (literally), or if you are interested in how a cosmic war between Dark Matter-based life and Baryonic life might take place, book your ride. In fact, the whole Xeelee sequence so far has been awesome.

I find it odd that this wasn't nominated for a Hugo or a Nebula or something such, it has that kind of heft to it. But what do I know?

The dark matter structures were alive.
Alive and purposeful.

5 Stars
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Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews806 followers
October 19, 2013
Hard science fiction authors are often criticized for writing prosaic prose and an inability to create believable, complex characters. Sci-fi legends like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke did not escape such criticism yet their works remain immensely popular to this day and never go out of print. This begs the question of whether we really need high literary value in hard sf. I think this style of writing is quite suitable to convey the type of story being told. The type where the story and concepts are bigger than the individual characters. What I expect from hard sf and space operas are wild ideas and epic plots on an intergalactic scale. Never mind the lyrical prose and passages of poetry I will look for those in the next book I read (or the one after that). As long as I am not limited to reading this kind of fiction to the exclusion of everything else I am fine with the more workmanlike writing style.

Which (finally) brings me to Stephen Baxter. You would have to be crazy to claim that Mr. Baxter is a literary writer, you could make the claim about a few sf authors like Ursula K. Le Guin, Jack Vance or Gene Wolfe but if you are looking for a sci-fi / lit-fic combo Stephen Baxter is not your man. What he can offer the reader is the escapism and flight of imagination we often crave, backed up by a solid foundation in known physics to render the story much more believable than simple handwavium.

At this point a synopsis seems appropriate and I did write one but it collided with a cosmic string and can only be found in a neighboring universe. I can tell you this, it feature the Sun's energy being drained away by some weird "photino birds" aliens, a group of characters' attempt to save it. We also get to see the end of our universe which is a very cool scene, and the entrance into another universe "next door" to ours. The process involves the eponymous Ring woven by the Xeelee from cosmic strings and some time travelling, for the sake of verisimilitude everything is explained by impenetrable super science. Now you know why I didn't want to summarize the plot.

Baxter’s writing style reminds me of Arthur C. Clarke more than anyone else. To his credit I think Baxter made more of a stab at character development (with limited success) but Clarke’s science expositions are much more accessible, and more seamlessly integrated into the narrative. Having said that, while a lot of the science in Ring is beyond my comprehension Baxter did well enough to narrate the story is such a way that at least the gist of the plot can be inferred.

The characters in Ring tend to spend a lot of time explaining rather arcane science to each other. They talk about the Pauli Exclusion Principle, event horizons, maser convections etc. like I would talk about flavors of ice cream. Also, all the characters also seem to "growl" a lot when they are irritated. These characters are generally pancake-like in term of depth, yet Baxter did manage to create one sympathetic character called Lieserl who has one of the best backstories ever. Lieserl is an AI character who starts off as a human engineered to age very rapidly and just before the moment of death her consciousness is digitized, stored in some kind of media and dispatched into the Sun to investigate an anomaly. All this so they can create an AI with real human personality and empathy. Ingenious and immoral, reminds of me of works by Greg Egan and Ted Chiang where the theme of our moral responsibility to the AI beings we create is explored in much greater depth.

I read Ring as part of the Xeelee omnibus which contains four volumes of the Xeelee Sequence, namely Raft, Timelike Infinity, Flux, and Ring. If you are in possession of this omnibus I recommend reading Timelike Infinity first then Ring, the other two volumes are standalone stories set in the same universe. So far I have read Timelike Infinity and Ring; I think Baxter told a tighter, more exciting story with “Timelike” but Ring is still a worthwhile read, just don’t expect any poems and songs.
Profile Image for Toby.
836 reviews332 followers
May 24, 2014
I'll start with a quote from The Times which has to be one of the finest review quotes for any novel you'll ever read; "The book sends in to free-fall the most awesome ideas in science fiction today...What makes these ideas assimilable is the prism of people through which they are refracted...good SF reveals the mortal host in the machine."

With my reading of Ring Stephen Baxter has become my favourite modern science fiction author, comparable in terms of sheer pleasure brought through ideas and storytelling scope to the greats like Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein.

For days now I've been unable to stop myself from telling people how good this book is; a perfect blend of speculative high physics, a traditional adventure/exploration story updated to a story arc that takes place over 5 million years and yet through imaginative plotting maintains the same characters throughout. It's the first time I can remember being so totally engrossed in a science fiction story, fascinated by the universe building and willingly excited by end of chapter story revelations; there's just so much wonder contained within these 450 pages, more and more layers of awesome ideas and concepts and descriptions of theoretical events that last right through to the final page.

Lieserl the biologically engineered child who ages one year per day for spoilertastic reasons involving a 5 million year human plan to study the death of The Sun, and the opening chapter told from her point of view is just one of those feats of creation that will surely draw you in and excite your imagination as the assorted motley crew of travellers across space and time finally come face to face with Baxter's godlike creations, the Xeelee, and the ultimate artefact of their engineering prowess, the Ring.

Ring is technically the fourth book in the amazing Xeelee sequence but also stands completely alone as its own creation, as do the other three books in the series it turns out. I spent the entirety of Ring waiting for an explanation of how such wonderful and bizarre science fiction creations as earlier Xeelee books Flux and Raft could possibly be tied in to the same universe and the way Baxter links them is with quiet audacity, somewhat akin to the way Asimov returned to his Foundation sequence to link his Empire and Robots books in to it but with a great deal more subtlety. The numbering of this sequence seems arbitrary, in many ways you might get more from them by taking on this wondrous creation first and then taking the other three as an expansion of the themes and ideas contained within.
Profile Image for Chris Berko.
471 reviews117 followers
February 11, 2022
I feel like I’ve been to the end of time and back.

There’s no other way for me to describe this book other than that. This is a perception shattering novel that challenged me to think in terms more grandiose than anything I’ve ever read before. Fun, smart, scary, and breathtaking are a few other words that come to mind but still aren’t enough. Check this out and have your brain scooped out, put in a blender with a bunch of math and physics and other science-y stuff, and then have it poured back into your head with a greater understanding of what it all means. This was heavy but truly entertaining.
Profile Image for Lightreads.
641 reviews534 followers
December 29, 2008
Hard SF. Very hard -- I think I might have chipped a tooth. Something is wrong with the sun, and all the stars around us are dying far before their time. A conscious virtual human is sent into Sol to investigate, while an unlikely crew sets out to travel five million years into the future and see if there might be an escape for humanity.

Right, so. If you are not familiar with the Pauli Exclusion Principle, baryons, star life cycles, and the more speculative and bizarre edges of string theory (which, okay, are generally indistinguishable from all of string theory), then do not read this book. 'Cause it won't explain any of that to you, and you'll be left reading a jerkily paced, rather bloodless book with wobbly dialogue, shoddy social structures, and talking-head characters.

If you are familiar with the Pauli Exclusion Principle, baryons, star life cycles, and the more bizarre and speculative edges of string theory, then totally read it for the shiny and ignore all the annoying bits with people in them. I fall into this category, and I generally managed to have a good time.

. . . which in itself is annoying, because I really don't think I'm the only one who finds the shiny much shinier when it's set in a story fabric that I actually care about. I mean, this book is about the destruction of the known universe and the survival of the species, and I never managed to care whether anyone lived or died. There's a reason hard SF has the reputation it does, though I will keep swearing that nothing intrinsic to the genre requires it -- a bullshit cop-out, if I ever heard one.
Profile Image for Jason.
1,179 reviews259 followers
June 18, 2016
4.5 Stars

Ring by Stephen Baxter is the best of the four book Xeelee Sequence. Baxter did something smart and rare with this series. All of the books are standalone novels. You can read them in pretty much any order with the exception that Ring should be read last. The coolest thing is the way that this book ties all four together. It is amazing.

Ring might be the most technical of the four books in this hard science fiction story. This is a true hard science novel. I loved how much time is spent on explaining the physics and the life cycle of the sun. Hell, I really have no idea if what I read is real, or if I truly understand it, but I do know that I loved it.

The story itself is a space opera dream with nothing less than the future of all Humans as a species on the line. I devoured this book. Baxter is one of my very favorite authors today.

Baxter does a fantastic job at bringing all four books together. He explores incredible environments, concepts, physics and mathematics. He writes about a future that I wish that I could see. The Xeelee Sequence is among the top along side all the greats.

I loved it.
Profile Image for Miglė.
Author 13 books397 followers
August 1, 2020
Trečią serijos knygą praleidau ir variau tiesiai prie ketvirtos - paskutinės, kuri ir suriša visą... tetralogiją? Nežinau, koks turi būti žodis, nu bet supratot.

Mūsų visata miršta! Oh no! Chebra iškeliauja į ateitį aiškintis, kodėl. Paaiškinimas yra visiškai massive - visata yra kovos laukas dviejų, kaip čia pasakius, rūšių, kurios veikia būdais, aprėpiančiais visą kosmosą. Knyga labai fainai susisieja su "Timelike Infinity" (2 serijos knyga) ir paaiškina dalykus.

Pirmi gal 200 puslapių buvo labai įdomūs, tikrai nežinai, kas bus toliau, ir lauki paaiškinimų. Bet atrodo, kad užbaiginėdamas seriją autorius jau taip norėjo suriškti visus galus, jau taip norėjo, kad visa knygos pabaiga sunaudojama tam (vietomis dirbtinam) galų surišinėjimui, kuris vyksta per gana nenatūralius dialogus.
Ai, bet vis tiek siūlau skaityti. Daug daug daug mokslinių idėjų ir kokybiškos fantazijos. "Kitos rūšys" yra ne šiaip žmonės su antenom, o tokie beveik visai nesuvokiami padarai, kas man atrodo super. Galėtų filmų pridaryti pagal šitas knygas, su visu cgi turėtų būti massive.

Profile Image for Rusty.
Author 10 books27 followers
April 12, 2018
I've finally done it. I've gone and reread this book. I've been threatening to for the past five years. But here I've gone and made it happen.

Elsewhere, I've discussed how this was the first non Star Trek piece of fiction I read after nearly a decade of, well, religious extremism, wherein I vaguely thought this sort of thing was a sin. But working nightshift where I spent most of my time sitting on my ass and trying to alleviate boredom led me to give this novel a shot.

I picked it up, somewhere in the spring of '95, I'm all but certain, at the bookstore on my way to work. I had literally nothing to occupy me during those hours and I'd already gone through all the Star Trek books they had in stock. And since this bookstore, like pretty much every other one on earth, sorted books alphabetical by author, I found this in the very front of the SF/F section, nestled right in there between Asimov, Benford, Brin & Clarke. There was a big spaceship on the cover, I had about 20 minutes to get to work, so I grabbed it.

This was the most mind expanding experience I'd ever had. It changed my life. I bet I read 30 or 40 more Science Fiction novels over the next two months. Actually, probably more than that, since I think I was putting them back at around one per day at the time.

So, I've long since discovered there are two types of stories... 'people' stories and 'ideas' stories. This novel is an 'ideas' story in the vein of Olaf Stapledon or Arthur C Clarke. Characters, while attempting to be human, are really excuses to advance the scientific speculation about the cosmos, or stellar lifecycles, or the nature of dark matter, or whatever.

It's a dangerous game to play, and was the main reason I was reticent to reread, I mean, tastes change, and as we get older and learn to appreciate the literary merits more, I was worried that this wouldn't have aged as well for me.

So, yes, this book that is essentially a tour of previous books the author had written at the time, worked on me just as magically as it did all those years ago. I'm still blown away by the scope of this tale, and it's still among the most epic that I've ever had the pleasure to read.

And yes, the treatise on stellar evolution was still captivating. As was the myriad other high concept ideas that were barely threaded together as a narrative. This shit worked. I can't explain, or articulate the why's of this, as I feel like I can easily point out numerous examples of instances of the dreaded infodumps and 'as-you-know-Bob's' throughout. There are characters that pop up and appear to be big players that are then relegated to being barely mentioned again.

Don't care. This is a work of genius, and when you are a genius, you don't have to follow any 'rules.'

Oh, in case anyone cares, humanity, a few thousand years from now, discovers that the universe is ending. They try to stop it. The story covers the following 5 million years. And it gets deeply scary, epic, and awe-inspiring as it unfolds.

Stephen Baxter is a hero. He changed my life. And this was the THE book that did it. Thanks, man.
Profile Image for Jake.
46 reviews3 followers
June 9, 2022
You may get more out of this book if you read Timelike Infinity first, which is also quite good, but it isn't a must to read any of the other books in the series first. There's also a minor tie-in from Flux, but it's more of an 'easter egg' than anything. Based on other reviews one's tolerance for lots of science discussion is likely to affect the reading experience. After reading Time (Manifold #1) some time ago, which is like college science lectures with a bit of plot sprinkled about, maybe I'm inured to it now. But the science to plot/character balance seemed reasonable to me in this one.

Much of the book takes place on a generation ship, and to me it made for an interesting adventure. The character Lieserl, who we meet first, was also quite fascinating, and I enjoyed her story. The more Baxter I read the more I think that fictional universes to him are dark places indeed. So if you're looking to Xeelee books to be full of optimism and hope you're probably in the wrong place.

My main issue with this book has been an issue with all the first four Xeelee books, and with #16: The Xeelee don't appear. Oh there's some Xeelee tech, there may be a Xeelee ship, but the race? Nope. Imagine the Borg from Star Trek if we never saw the actual Borg, they never even communicated, we just saw their ships show up, do whatever, and leave. Not very satisfying, right? Same problem here. I'm not sure if Baxter wanted his almost godly powerful aliens to be so totally mysterious he won't reveal them, or the Xeelee sequence is the sequence of books he hoped people would buy wanting even a decent bit about the Xeelee. Book 17, the most recent, says in the synopsis "... Poole, at last, finds the Xeelee..." I'm gonna read it, and if the Xeelee aren't actually in the thing I'm not reading anymore of the series unless someone tells me there's actually Xeelee in a particular book. Maybe I should have read #5, Vacuum Diagrams, which is said to explain the whole sequence... But according to the author it also spoils the major plot points from the whole sequence, so I figured it'd be my last in the series. That's a bit of a rant I know, but if it might help someone else it seemed worth sharing.

Recommended, as long as you don't mind hard SF and don't mind not learning much of anything about the Xeelee except for some of their tech.
Profile Image for Tamahome.
511 reviews191 followers
February 17, 2023
(page 55 of 512): I dig Lieserl...

(around 10%, nicely written)
Lieserl was suspended inside the body of the

I should finish this. Someone on sfsignal said they reread it often. (link gone) http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2011...

5 years later, finally reading it. No ebook in America apparently, but Germans are in luck. Pretty gonzo hard sf.

I finished Baxter’s Ring. The highlight is probably the Lieserl’s transformation around 10%. Maybe it’s better to read the other Xeelee books first, at least the 2nd one. If you really like galactic astronomy, this book’s for you. The gonzo science might be hard to relate to. I'd love to see it adapted and visualized.
Profile Image for Steve Haywood.
Author 26 books40 followers
January 8, 2012
The fourth book in a four book sequence that has really got me into Baxter, and contemporary hard SF in general. A group of humans have discovered that something is wrong with the sun, and send an expedition five million years into the future to find out what went wrong. Much is learned about the enigmatic and powerful Xeelee, and their enemy, the dark matter photino birds.[return][return]I found this book an excellent one, much like the others in the sequence, though I wouldn t like to compare between them. There are some chapters that contain a couple of pages of complex stellar physics that for the most part goes over my head, but I can pick up some of it, and it doesn t detract from the story. Stephen Baxter writes great epic science fiction, with believable science, but also written in a way that is easy to follow. Ring links in with the other three books in the series quite well, and it s quite interesting spotting the references. A great book and a great series, highly recommended. Now all I need to do is read the book of short stories that goes with it!
Profile Image for M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews.
4,226 reviews344 followers
January 31, 2019
This really is one of the best science fiction books I have EVER read, and this is also my first book by this author. I've read books by other wonderful science fiction authors like Heinlein, Asimov, and Herbert, and this just... blew me away. I'm not even kidding you. I was sucked into this story with the tale of Lieserl, and I kept looking forward to the parts which had her in it.

The story and plot are fantastic, imaginative, and well-written. The amount of creativity and thought that went into this is just... wow. Seriously, WOW. I got a bit lost when the author talked about hard science, but I was able to keep up well. I will never forget this book for as long as I live, and the ending was incredible. I gotta say, I did feel bad for poor Uvarov, though...
Profile Image for Hernando.
36 reviews5 followers
March 25, 2023
First half of the book is pure gold in an epic scale but I somehow did not like when the handwavium Extra Super FTL hyperdrive appeared, it wasn't that bad to compromise the whole book but I was not expecting that at all. Probably it made sense in some way for the plot but It also made the universe looks like a small city and it sort of broke that sense of wonder you got when you reading about the Ring, super strings, etc.

Apart from that, it could be a full 5 star book.
Profile Image for Vladimir Ivanov.
319 reviews23 followers
September 7, 2017
—"В нашей ракете застрял обрывок суперструны мироздания! Он весит четыре миллиарда триллионов тонн! Мы не можем двинуться с места!" (реальная цитата из книги)

Еле дочитал. Помимо фирменного бакстеровского занудства, гигантизма и деревянных чурок вместо персонажей, здесь все отягощено редкой тупостью всех действующих лиц.

Солнце необъяснимо гаснет! Давайте скорее запустим в Солнце умный ИИ, пускай он там внутри все исследует и выяснит, что происходит. Только никаких инструментов ему не дадим. И связь с ним поддерживать не будем. Да и вообще нахрен он нам нужен, забудем о нем (правда, ИИ в этой сложной ситуации не теряется и всего за ПЯТЬ МИЛЛИОНОВ ЛЕТ ухитряется изучить пару процессов в фотосфере)

А вот мы запускаем мегаракету, которой лететь до цели тысячу лет! Но вместо роботов и ИИ мы запихаем в ракету кучу полуслучайных людей, авось кто-нибудь из них долетит и спасет человечество! А если за тысячу лет они все повымирают, или дегенерируют до пещерного состояния и поломают весь корабль - ну значит, не судьба человечеству спастись, не особо и хотелось.

На фоне этой вакханалии какие-то малопонятные повелители вселенной зачем-то воюют между собой, швыряя друг в друга СКОПЛЕНИЯМИ ГАЛАКТИК и нанося удары ВЫДЕРНУТЫМИ ИЗ МЕТРИКИ МИРОЗДАНИЯ СУПЕРСТРУНАМИ. Все это сопровождается бормотанием заклинаний про "времяподобную бесконечность" и "принцип Паули".

Note to self: Бакстера больше не читать ни при каких обстоятельствах.
Profile Image for Timothy Carlson.
13 reviews
February 23, 2022
This is probably one of the first books that I’ve read just by Stephen Baxter (I have read the Long Earth series), and it was really great. The world it paints is so rich and the story is fascinating. When I started on this book, I was unaware it was part of a series, but it stands on its own. I’m sure if I read the other books in the series I’d be more informed of some of the parts, but it stands well on its own. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and cannot wait to read some of the other books of his in the future.
Profile Image for Stevie Kincade.
153 reviews104 followers
October 8, 2016
"Timelike Infinity" is one of my favorite Science Fiction novels and "Ring" summarizes then picks up immediately after the events of Timelike. After slogging through "Flux" and listening to the excruciating "Proxima" I needed a decent break from Baxter. A few months later I couldn't have been happier to be reading this frantically from the first chapter thinking "Hooray Baxter IS good he just has some genuine stinkers too".

In "Timelike Infinity" we get an amazing story spun between a bunch of quantum theory. In "Ring" we get a good story spun in between a ton of amazing science ideas. By the end of "Ring" Baxter wants the reader to know ALL about Baryonic Matter, Quagma, The Heisenberg uncertainty principle, The Pauli Exclusion Principle and anything and everything you could ever want to think and know about stars. Baxter's thing is to imagine how things he knows about physics could become an essential part of the plot of his stories.

"Timelike Infinity" has a cool ending, then it has this very weird final paragraph tacked on to it. Thankfully that paragraph is explained quite early on. Then we blast off into the far future and the rest of the timeline is laid out. The events of Flux and Ring are recapped. We learn more about the Xeelee but not as much as we would like. The ending is OK but we have more Xeelee books after this.

The criticisms of Baxter are that he is just not a very good writer and/or he is bad at characters. Baxter is a great writer when he is "telling". His exposition on the science stuff is amazing and dexcribed with genuine wonder. When he is "showing" he never knows how to get out of a scene. The characters in "Ring" are fine. Louise exists only as an infodump but I was interested in Leisel and cared about the forest people.

Baxter's weakness and it is a pretty big one is that his dialogue ranges from passable to terrible thus the "bad at characters" rap.

Baxter's dialogue scenes normally follow interesting exposition after the next piece of Baxter mind candy has been laid out. Now when he needs to bring in the characters the dialogue goes a little something like this:

Louise: "Hey Spinner, what do you know about the Pauli Exclusion Principle/ other physics thing"
Spinner: "Oh of course 2 particles cant occupy the same state or something like that?"
Louise: "Well actually",
Spinner: "You sound like a poet"
Alternate ending dialogue: "Sounds simple enough"/"Amazing"/"Awe Inspiring"
Alternate alternate ending: "Do you think I'm an idiot?, get ON with it"

After I have just read some amazing and beautiful exposition from a character it does kinda take me out of the story for the other character to immediately say how amazing and beautiful a description we just heard was.

Is it bad writing, super meta or is Baxter just SO gangsta that he talks himself up IN the story? Who knows?

So this flaw aside, Timelike Infinity/Ring is an exceptional piece of Science Fiction. It spans from the big bang to the death of the last star. The size of it's ideas cannot be contained inside a "Ring" of Cosmic String. Deserves it's place among the classics of SF.

Suggested Reading order of Xeelee Sequence: Timelike/Ring/Vacuum Diagrams
Profile Image for Roddy Williams.
862 reviews33 followers
October 8, 2016
There's an awful lot going on in this volume and, to be fair, Baxter has his work cut out tying the events in with the other Xeelee universe narratives.
The Paradoxa organisation has evolved in the wake of Michael Poole's original journey to the future in 'Timelike Infinity' and the subsequent discovery that there were powerful and inimical aliens out there. Paradoxa has now become a powerful body whose remit is to preserve Humanity. What has also been discovered is that someone or something is destabilising our sun. Paradoxa has bred an engineered human, Lieserl, who will grow at the rate of a human year every day and whose personality will be downloaded into an AI which will be able to function within the sun. The organisation have also commandeered a prototype interstellar ship to take a thousand year trip along with a portable wormhole so that on their return - like Poole - they will be able to return through the wormhole from 5 million years in the future.
Things don't go according to plan though, and the crew - who may be the only humans left in the universe - devise a plan to head for The Ring, the vast galaxy-devouring structure built by the godlike Xeelee.
It's certainly a tour de force of Hard SF. Baxter throws in an entire gallimaufry of complex physics concepts, such as the photino birds, creatures of dark matter who can live within stars, structures millions of light years wide built of cosmic string, exotic matter and extraordinarily detailed explanations of the lifecycles of suns.
The Ring itself, once we finally reach the beast, is the ultimate (as of yet) Big Dumb Object, woven of cosmic string and with a diameter of millions of light years.
One could argue that Baxter here has possibly over-egged the cosmic pudding and that the narrative could have possibly have been dealt with in two separate novels, to give space for some of the many characters to live and breathe.
Clearly the science can not be faulted and where excitement can be found here it is in the wonderful tour-de-forces of scientific hyperbole which here and there manages to recreate that sense of wonder that is all too lacking in most modern SF.
If it fails anywhere it is maybe in a lack of suspense, the peaks and troughs of emotional tension, cliffhangers, the things that make us want to read on. Certainly there are action sequences, but they lack a certain vivacity, something common to Baxter novels.
Overall though, it's a marvellous conclusion (at least in internal chronology) to Baxter's Xeelee universe.
Profile Image for Peter.
222 reviews
March 13, 2011
Visionary and gripping, if you skim the science lectures: Stephen Baxter is a fascinating teller of tales, although, for me, his highbrow scientific monologues rarely blend well with the plot. In Ring - the last of the Xeelee sequence - his ensemble cast includes several characters who regularly pause the action to make turgid lectures to their colleagues. Some of this science is integral to the story - of the ultimate fate of the Universe - but the interludes are like blocks of concrete around the feet of something of otherwise mercurial pace and, for the average reader (i.e. one without a PhD in astrophysics), they are a hindrance.

Baxter has big ideas and a brilliant imagination, which makes up for the fact that his characters are inclined to be a little unbelievable and repetitive. In Ring, as in his other books, he throws together a disparate group of individuals and explores their adjustments to each other and to dramatic challenges and events, It doesn't quite come off, because, beneath the surface, it seems they weren't really that dissimilar.

Those criticisms aside, Ring stands alone as a work of vision and innovation, which left this human reader feeling very appreciative of the solidity of planet earth. There are some neat links to earlier Xeelee stories, such as Flux and Raft, and, overall, it is gripping stuff on a cosmic scale. Skim the science lessons and you won't be able to put it down.

August 6, 2020
After the wonderful Raft and Timelike Infinity i was expecting Baxter to get his shit together and finish the story he seems to be really passionate about with a bang. But man, it feels like with Flux (third and the most boring book) his actual writing skills got worse somehow. And i got pretty nervous about Ring. So the finale of Xeelee sequence felt long, overstretched and underwhelming. Yes, underwhelming, because however grandiose the actual story is - and it is pretty awesome and is pretty much everything i want from my sci-fi - the writing brings it down hard. Even though it feels like Baxter is trying to improve his character writing, and it even works to some degree, the storytelling is flat. So even when i tried to immerse myself in this wonderful universe the author just seemed to purposefully break the mood and insert pages after pages of insignificant details and really bad dialogues. And i'm not against detailed explanations or deep concepts - it's hard sf after all. It just felt out of place and more importantly - detrimental to the flow of the story. Still gonna give it 3 stars though because i can feel the author's passion and I really like the way he structured the whole thing, with side-stories in the same universe and all that. It's just that it could be so much more and i expected it to be absolutely epic. Gonna read your collaborations with master Clarke himself next, don't F it up, Stephen.
Profile Image for Josh.
892 reviews31 followers
April 16, 2013
Another book I tried because I thought it sounded interesting, and never read a Baxter book. Well, it started off fairly interesting, but then devolved into formulaic writing that got worse and worse until I stopped caring.

This book is boring. There is virtually no confict, and very little character development. It's just a series of grand-soundings cience fiction ideas spooned out one after another, reading like a physics textbook trying to be cute... only ending up patronizing. I know what a globular cluster is, for crying out loud. You don't have to have the characters go like, "Look, you're leaving the galactic plane, but it looks like you're barely moving because its so large. Now shut your eyes...! Those bright lights we just hit is a globular cluster!" Not to mention the characters see some completely fantastic, unexplained phenomena and someone in the party immediately goes "I figured it out! That tunnel of cosmic string is a missile! Not it was launched a billion years ago to counteract the galaxy which was hurled like a giant trebuchet projectile!" And etc etc etc. I will be returning all my other Baxter books to the used bookstore.

Just read a plain old textbook. You'll get more solid physics and save a lot of time. This book is far too chunky. It should have been 300 pages, not 500.
37 reviews
April 26, 2010
Overall, I enjoyed this book. but the technobabbl was unbearable at parts. Anyone that claims to understand what he was talking about is a lier. Even people on this site say things like "Well I have a PHD in physics, so I understood....", NO, you didn't. You are lying.

the other problem is that the end was ridiculous and counterfactual. The whole point of them "exploring" is because the Photino birds were destroying star within 5 million years making planets un-inhabitable. So their answer was to travel to a universe in which there were no photino birds, but stars died within 3 million years, and there were no planets. Now, I am not a physicist, but that seems like a "worse" situation? And on top of that, The Xeelee ships were clearly trying to communicate with the humans before they went through the ring. they couldn't even have said "hi"? A character even said "wondered why they didn't fire on the Northern?"

The problem is that this book could have been SO MUCH better. Baxters' Timeships is a similar scope of a book, and is one of the most exciting books I have ever read. But the technobabble combinged with the ridiculous ending, really hobbled this one for me.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
12 reviews
July 17, 2015
Ok, so the science in these books is great, I have a degree in Astrophysics and I really enjoyed the hard physics here. That was about it though. This is the fourth book in the series and I read them all except I skipped most of Flux. It just seemed a bit too much, and I just wasn't enjoying the read so I skipped to the final 20 pages.
I think these books are more about the science than about an actual good story. It seems the author had an ending for the book in mind and some good ideas (same with the other books) and just muddled through the storyline to get there.

There's gaps in time of like a year, or 50 years, which is fine but the characters just continue as if it was just yesterday. As if no time has passed at all, eg someone will ask a question 50 years later that would be asked the moment they arrived in a new place.

These books could have been something really great if the author teamed up with a good storyteller, but as they are it seems more like a physics textbook with a bit of a story mixed in. Highly recommended for Astrophysics students though..

Profile Image for Kruunch.
274 reviews4 followers
May 2, 2013
Once in awhile you come across a book that totally blows your mind. The Ring was (unexpectedly) was one such book for me.

The Ring takes the reader from a futuristic Earth that has endured alien conquest and subsequent successful revolution out of the solar system and on to an adventure that spans the evolution of humanity and the universe. And those aren't the mind blowing parts.

The Ring was the first Stephen Baxter book I had read and enjoyed it so much that I went on to read most of his other works (and there are a lot of them). The Ring is the fourth book in the Xeelee series but are only minorly connective and can be read in any order.

This book has to be read to be believed and you will be thinking about it years after the reading.

DISCLAIMER: Stephen Baxter is a very niche author. If you're looking for interpersonal character development and twisty in depth plot lines, he may not be the author for you. However, if you love hard core science fiction dosed liberally with theoretical physics and macro views of the universe we live in, read this book now!
Profile Image for Andreas.
Author 2 books27 followers
March 27, 2011
This is probably the most important novel in the “early Baxter” books of the Xeelee sequence. Michael Poole has opened the universe to mankind with his wormholes. We are introduced to Lieserl, humanity’s sentient probe inside our sun. GUTships ride to the very edge of space and time. One of them carries, ark-like, the seed of humanity. Thousands of subjective years later, it arrives at the Ring, a classic BDO (Big Dumb Object) constructed as an escape hatch from the impending destruction of our universe. Big stuff, and Baxter makes it look easy. The message of hope and the importance of Life expressed here are, I think, Baxter’s greatest hallmarks. A fascinating novel indeed.

Profile Image for Jason.
104 reviews8 followers
November 16, 2008
A truly horrible book. It claims to be "very, very hard SF", but almost all important features of the plot are completely implausible. A lot of buzzwords are thrown around, and basic understanding of certain principles is demonstrated, but real understanding of the fundamentals is completely lacking. The characters are completely flat and have no depth or complexity. The dialogue is easy to read, but not realistic at all. Most aspects of the book simply didn't make sense. I'm still not sure why I forced myself to read the whole thing.
February 22, 2012
I really enjoy books that challenge me. Baxter writes hard SF, and this book has a huge scope. It covers alternately 1000 years and 5 million years, depending on whether you go with the time dilation effect of near lightspeed or stay at rest. It deals with concepts of light matter (baryonic) creatures at war with dark matter creatures, and using whole galaxies and constructed cosmic string structures as weapons of war. Pretty fantastic. The characters were okay. I thought they performed about as I expected, but mostly I enjoyed the setting concepts that Baxter laid out.
Profile Image for Leif Anderson.
168 reviews15 followers
January 21, 2010
Pretty good medium-hard scifi. This became one of those unification novels that scifi authors write sometimes; a single book that lays out a framework containing all the worlds that they've ever written about. Often those books suffer because they have to bend the rules in order to unify all those worlds. However, this was a pretty good story in its own right, and did a respectable job with the unification (as far as I can tell - I haven't read many of Baxter's other books).
Profile Image for Mick.
21 reviews1 follower
August 14, 2014
It's been a while since I've read hard scifi, I forgot how much I enjoyed it. This is a great book that stands up well to my memory of it from years ago when I first read it.
Profile Image for raly to.
25 reviews1 follower
September 10, 2023
I think the ideas in this book are enough to make a couple of good short stories. However, the realization just wasn't good. It was repetitive (especially if you have read the previous books) and there was a plot for about a quarter of the book. After that, it felt like there wasn't much apart from really heavy handed excessive exposition.

Let me summarize most of the book: a character explains something to another character (at times even "Let me tell you why you and me, together, decided to come here a year ago"). And what is worse was that a lot of what is being explained is boring. Like listing all the names of all the moons of Saturn. It's clear that Baxter loves reading details about the solar system, because in this book he has reproduced a lot of the contents of Wikipedia on the subject.

Here's an actual quote [A character] "remembered the ancient beautiful names. Pan, Atlas, Prometheus, Pandora, Epimetheus..." On the very same page: "Once, three ice moons had circled outside the orbit of Titan: Iapetus, Hyperion, and retrograde Phoebe." This does not matter one bit for the story, it is just casually mentioned, like the vast majority of things explained by the characters.

I'm disappointed that I did not end up enjoying this as much as I could have given the couple of nice ideas the story was built around. I still haven't read Vacuum Diagrams; it seems that I may enjoy a series of (linked) Baxter short stories more, because Baxter's style of novels doesn't work for me.
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