Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Ark by Stephen Baxter
Penguin Group, 2009
Hardcover, 544 pages
ISBN-13: 9780451463319
very highly recommended

It's the year 2030. The oceans have risen rapidly, and soon the entire planet will be submerged. But the discovery of another life-sustaining planet light years away gives those who remain alive hope. Only a few will be able to make the journey-Holle Groundwater is one of the candidates. If she makes the cut, she will live. If not, she will be left to face a watery death...
My Thoughts:
Ark by Stephen Baxter returns to the Earth as seen in Flood.  It's a sequel but at the beginning events from both novels are running concurrently, just in different locations and following different people. Ark follows project Nimrod, or Ark 1. This ark, however, is a spaceship. The story follows the project from the early days when Ark 1 is being developed and young candidates for the crew are being trained, to the flight and subsequent problems that emerge in the flight to Earth 2. Baxter mainly follows three different women: Holle, Venus and Grace.
I enjoyed Flood quite a bit, so I was pleasantly surprised that Ark surpassed it in some ways. Baxter does an excellent job of moving the story forward and developing his characters through dialogue. He covers the science and the sociological aspects that a program like Nimrod would encounter. Baxter deals with some dark, harsh realities that an elite program in a world in crisis, as well as a long space flight, would face. This makes his work eminently readable.
Even though I would imagine that you could read Ark as a stand alone novel, I would suggest reading Flood first, and then Ark. Flood explains some background details. The science isn't daunting either, so if you normally avoid hard science fiction for that reason, Baxter makes it easy to enjoy his novels. It has been a trying couple of weeks, including being forced to wait to finish Ark right after I started it due to other pressing circumstance.
Very Highly Recommended
Gordo shrugged. “They left you behind to give you a shot at getting into Ark One. A Chance of a better life than any of them face now, especially if they’re right that their boat has been sunk.”
“I don’t even know what Ark One is.”
“You’ll find out.”
“I’ll never see any of them again.”
“I guess not.”
“Once again I’m alone, with strangers.”
He sighed, pushed back his peaked cap, and scratched his scalp. “So are we all. The whole world is screwed up, kid. At least here we got something to do.” He looked around. The last dust from the chopper was settling now, and the homeless were pushing back to decolonize the space they had cleared, like water pooling in a dip. In a few minutes there would be no sign that a chopper had landed here at all. “Well, that’s that. Come on, let’s get you out of here.” He released her arm and set off back through the town, towards the waiting cars.
She followed, having no choice. pg. 5

"...There's a selection process for newcomers to the project. Like Thandie said back in Cripple Creek, you're actually a better candidate than your husband would have been, in terms of Nimrod's criteria. You've shown independent survival skills. I saw that for myself." pg. 8

This was LaRei, a secretive and exclusive society, established in the years before flooding as a source of contacts for good schools and exclusive vacation resorts and fabulously expensive merchandise like watches and jewelry, now become a kind of survivalist network of the superrich LaRei, where a net worth of a billion bucks wouldn't even get you in the door; without Nathan's sponsorship Patrick wouldn't be here. pg. 26

"But we're going to have to proceed with extreme caution. Think about it. The Earth is drowning. Tell the world you're building an ark and every hapless IDP and his brood will be fighting for a place aboard." He glared at them, his face pinched and calculating. "I'm hoping we're going to support each other in years to come. But we must work discreetly. We must keep our secrets  - even from each other. We should each know only what we need to know about what the other guy is doing, like terrorist cells..." pg. 34

1 comment:

Jeanne said...

I agree; it's just as good, and even better in some ways--the science of flooding was interesting, but the science of space travel always has its own fascination, and this author imagines it well, and with just enough detail for the non-scientific reader.