Review: Vacuum Diagrams – Stephen Baxter

I wish I could do justice to this book by writing it as beautiful review as it deserves, but I’m exhausted and feeling terrible after a bout of food poisoning from a terrible burger bought at three in the morning in Leeds at the end of a friend’s stag do over the weekend.

So apologies to Mr Baxter. I read Vacuum Diagrams during my honeymoon a couple of weeks ago and didn’t want to wait any longer to write happy words about it.

This is a wonderful book, exploring celestial history, from the universe’s birth to its premature death in four million years time. It’s effectively a collection of short stories, bound together by a framing narrative set in the sixth millennium; a bit of a history-through-characters sort of a thing. Frankly, I found the ideas more engaging than the characters for the most part, with a few major exceptions, and I was happy to immerse myself in the world-building, to the extent that one or two of the character-based stories rather felt like they got in the way.

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Go buy it, it’s lovely.

The world-building though, good grief. It was an absolute delight being led through Baxter’s infinite universe(s), endlessly inhabited, endlessly textured. Some of the ideas put forward are genuinely stunning: alien civilisations in the first microseconds of the universe, before physics as we know it have come into being, humans living at the extremities of collapsed stars, planets folded into themselves through further dimensions… That’s not even the weirdest or most shocking stuff in there. Despite the horror and dread of the xeelee and the photino birds, it’s a universe I’d love to spend exploring forever in a spaceship, but I’ll have to make do with exploring it on paper.

I read this book before the main body of the Xeelee sequence on recommendation, so I’ve got all that to come. Awesome times!

So read this book. I’m sorry this review wasn’t more elegant, (apologies again to Stephen Baxter). Read the book. Read it. I love it. You will too.

Now I’m off to fall asleep on the couch. Goodnight.

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