It’s not unusual for the timescape of a Stephen Baxter novel to span hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years but The Thousand Earths stretches his ambition even further, speculating what might happen to Earth – and the people that live on it – over billions and more.
the story of astronaut John Hackett, who is leading a mission to Andromeda which will bring him back to Earth five million years after he left, Baxter’s latest once again takes a very human central character and puts him in extraordinary situations, using Hackett’s above average scientific knowledge to investigate and assess what has happened to our planet in the time he’s been gone, and dragging the rest of us along with the author’s trademark everyman’s guide to BIG science. It’s not long before Hackett meets others who are similarly out of their time but how does his story fit in with the twin narrative of Mela, a young girl living in an advanced yet strangely primitive version of Earth, and will their paths collide before Mela’s time runs out?
Though each of the thankfully prolific Baxter’s books is like greeting an old friend for seasoned fans, there’s always a way in for new readers, who also have the unbridled pleasure of digging into his back catalogue for the first time. The Thousand Earths is no different and should be treasured alongside his recent explorations into deep space and deeper thinking; simply put, Stephen Baxter is working it out and it is working out just fine.
The Thousand Earths is out now from Gollancz.