Saturday, June 25, 2005

Book Review : Origin by Stephen Baxter

This novel by Baxter is a classic hard SF and although I do not like hard SF, I like this one. Now, why do I like this one?

I like this one because it lets us look at humanity itself from multiple points of view. The plot allows one to explore different ways of being human. Although in the story, the various hominids are supposed to be different from each other, they are, in my opinion various facets of humans only. Or perhaps the same human at different times. Sometimes we are like the Hams, simple and uncaring. Sometimes we are like the Nutcrackers, totally dumb. But sometimes we are Homo Sapiens, always analyzing and thinking about the mysteries of life.

The novel was a new thing for me. I have not read many SFs which take up biology as their base. The reason is clear. There is only one great theory in bio. The theory of evolution. That is what people keep playing around with. Baxter also does that, and pardonably in a very artificial way.

I call this way artificial because although the idea that he throws at us is plausible, it sounds very far fetched. I wonder how Asimov brought so much believability into his stories. It’s a difficult job in SF.

I like Baxters style. I find it to be quite similar to Tolkiens in the sense that he uses mysterious references and half formed ideas to convey a sense of profundity.