Manifold: Time, Stephen Baxter
(Del Rey 0-345-43075-1, $24, 440pp, hc, January 2000) (UK edition as Time: Manifold I, HarperCollins/Voyager August 1999)
Stephen Baxter's new novel features a panoply of classic Baxterian tropes, according to Gary K. Wolfe's review in the August 1999 Locus (published when the UK first edition appeared).
''...the failure of NASA, the obsessive but supercompetent Heinlein hero, the one-way journey to some unhospitable part of the solar system, catastrophic political paranoia back on earth, relatively sudden evolutionary change, and -- perhaps most important -- the Stapledonian zoom-out which places all the action in a vast context that stretches (in the current case) to the end of time, while retaining the point of view of a single character.''
The book begins in the early 21st century, with social reactions to a theory predicting human extinction within a couple centuries. Reid Malenfant, ex-astronaut, plans a secret space venture to a newly discovered second moon, where an alien artifact offers hopeful visions of the future. Meanwhile, a growing plague of super-intelligent ''blue children'' threatens humanity back on earth. The US government pursues both Malenfant and tries rounding up the blue children...
''[Baxter] sees a darker truth of human nature in the political and social reactions to the blue children, and some of the proposals for their extermination are chillingly credible. As always, the vaulting perspectives are what give Baxter's fiction its exhilarating punch, and while it's great as always to catch a credible gliimpse of mind at the end of time, there's a beaten child at the center of Time that anchors it like a strange attractor, and keeps those huge perspectives in perspective.''
Foreign Bodies, Stephen Dedman
(Tor 0-312-86864-2, $23.95, 286pp, hc, December 1999, cover by Bruce Jensen)
Australian writer Stephen Dedman's second novel (after The Art of Arrow Cutting) is science fiction in the thriller/cyberpunk mode, according to Russell Letson's review in the February 2000 Locus. In class-divided America of 2016, an Australian expatriate meets a stripper who, revealing herself to be a visitor from the future, steals his body and leaves him trapped in hers. Fortunately he's read a lot of SF. The book
''shows a fine enthusiasm in piling on the SF motifs: cross-gender body-swapping, time travel, near-future urban grunge, van Vogtian conspiracies, genocidal right-wing nutballs (wait, that's journalism, not SF), and an array of supporting riffs and Ideas. ... Near-future SF, whether in cyberpunk or plain old dystopian modes, has become a reasonable substitute for the traditional hard-boiled thriller, and Foreign Bodies suggests that Dedman is one of the writers we might expect to join the likes of Greg Egan, George Foy, William Gibson, Peter F. Hamilton, and Melissa Scott in producing entertainments with the combination of smart extrapolation, satiric edge, noir atmosphere, and tough-guy attitude that bring Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and John D. MacDonald into the new century.''
From Gary K. Wolfe's review in the January 2000 Locus:
''Essentially, the novel tries to balance a story that builds on one of SF's more enduring paranoid fantasies, stolen identity, with one that involves apocalyptic terrorism, and then to resolve the whole thing into a fast-moving action story complete with secret hideouts on Alcatraz Island and hidden suitcase nukes poised to annihilate San Francisco. Dedman may know his SF sources – and gives himself plenty of opportunities to show us this by making his hero an SF fan – but he also knows something about loud, clanging action movies with tough-as-nails heroes and blowout finishes. ... Despite trying to juggle two or three completely different ambitions, Foreign Bodies has plenty to recommend it.''