Proxima. Stephen Baxter. Roc/Penguin Group (USA). November 2014. 480 pp. ISBN#: 9780451467706.
Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf star far, far from the planets of Earth, the Moon, Mars, Mercury and all the other planets so familiar to present day Earthlings. The year is 2166 and laser beams of energy developed from kernel engineering can hurl a spaceship into different galaxies. Phases of history on Earth have passed, including a period of purging intelligent scientists who supposedly committed “crimes” (though never specified); and now there is an intellectual war about who will control the forces of energy with amazing potential for not only space travel but also creating new colonies on distant planets.
Yuri and Mardina were both forced to become colonists on Proxima or Per Adua as it is otherwise called. Their fellow inhabitants were initially a larger group; but uncontrolled feelings, thoughts and deeds caused several violent scenes in which many were murdered, leaving finally only Yuri and Mardina as survivors. There are other colonists somewhere on the planet but they were dumped in places far away and the chances of their meeting each other are slim indeed! For now Yuri, Mardina and a specialized robot ColU explore their new world. It appears that its living inhabitants are plant-like creatures, with a hidden eye, who are always busy building other plant-like structures and creating structures like dams to move or close water sources. Even the water contains bacterial life that is impossible to define by earth standards. However, thanks to the genius of ColU the species learn to live with each other, their only major problem the solar flares that could kill them if exposed.
Over a long period of time Mardina sets up a plan whereby she and Yuri will have children. Mardina refuses to believe no one will ever come to rescue them but Yuri thinks differently.
At the same time other subplots are happening that involve the battle over these super-kernels. Who obtains them and controls them can rule not only the earth but also other planets in the cosmos and beyond.
Eventually other settlers will join Yuri and Mardina and their lives will be irrevocably changed by a change coming to Proxima that will mandate their moving elsewhere. The “Hatch” will take them where they never dreamed of going; this is the discovery of a lifetime that totally shifts the plot of this novel.
Proxima is brilliant science fiction, the best this reviewer has read in more years than will be admitted. It’s hard science fiction with a complex plot interlaced with real scientific explanations that are intelligently delivered and best of all highly readable and comprehensible to the average non-scientist reader. It depicts a world where inhabitants resemble nothing encountered in earth’s experience and yet doesn’t come across as silly but highly credible, exciting and intriguing reality. For any reader who has the slightest interest in science fiction, this is your must read for the year; and for those who have never experienced the “other world vicissitudes of life on other planets,” this is the greatest introduction to the world of science fiction you will ever find! Highly, highly recommended, a truly wonderful work of science fiction that ranks up there with the masters of the genre!