Proxima, by Stephen Baxter

Review published on September 19, 2013.Reviewed by jj redfearn

Nudge Reviewer Rating:

By the year 2166 Yuri Eden had been a convict on Mars for some time. His crime was to have been frozen by his parents and sent to be awakened years in the future, where his prospects would be brighter. The future didn’t want him. The future was busy creating laws to punish descendants of criminals for their ancestor’s crimes. Being successful in things that led to global warming or fuel depletion or the creation of Artificial Intelligence was a crime. Being alive in the twenty-first century was pretty much a crime. Yuri Eden was a criminal. Yuri Eden was not his real name.

This time he’d been injected with something by one of the warders, one Peacekeeper Tollemache, and now he’d woken up back on Earth. The gravity told him that. It took him a while to find out where he was being sent next.

The first expedition to Proxima Centauri had disappeared without trace. One man, sent off alone to the nearest known star to the Solar system, never heard of again. The second expedition, crewed by intelligent machines, was sent out soon after, travelled faster and should have arrived before he did, but it too failed to retain contact. Yuri Eden was to be part of the third expedition. Poorly equipped, virtually untrained and 100% unwilling convicts or seemingly randomly press-ganged individuals, shipped out to start the colonization of an unknown and unexplored new world. No-one in their right mind would want to colonize somewhere like that.

The story becomes a fascinating and all too believable examination of how small isolated communities of strangers might survive, or not, in a new alien landscape and of what that new ecosystem might be like. The technology is interesting and credible, the people are feasible, and the general ideas behind the the socio-geopolitical-economic background in the Solar system are interesting, though its detail and the way powerful figures behave are decidedly implausible. Not Baxter’s best, but definitely worth a read.


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