Flux by Stephen Baxter
Third novel in Baxter's Xeelee Sequence.
Although it is set in the middle of the Xeelee Sequence, it is quite possible to read this novel without having read the first two books in the sequence.
Five out of ten. Just about worth the time taken to read it but there are lots of much better books out there.
I bought this book because I was sitting next to a guy on a flight from Munich to London. He was engrossed in it and so, when I got a chance, I looked at the cover and wandered off to buy a copy.
The most striking thing about this novel is the setting. The events take place within a thin layer just below the surface of a neutron star.
Somehow, life is possible within this environment and the main characters are a tiny race of beings created by humans to be able to live in the environment.
Within this world, the author creates a preindustrial society whose attitudes bear an odd resemblance to those on the planet Norfolk in Peter Hamilton's "Night's Dawn" series. Yes, despite the setting, the characters are really taken from pastoral England. Indeed, Baxter's heroine Dura and several of the other characters might have walked out of a novel by Thomas Hardy.
The novel follows the adventures of Dura as she starts out trying to save her small clan and ends trying to save the world and perhaps even the universe itself.
A good story, some interesting characters and a great setting. So, what could go wrong with that?
Well, despite all of this promise, the novel finally failed to be complete because of the way that the ending was handled. Suddenly, new technologies, situations and relationnships were introduced to tie up all of the dangling threads and bring things to a conclusion. I almost had the feeling that the author suddenly decided that it was time to get it all wrapped up and off to the publishers.