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Publisher's Summary

Michael Poole finds himself in a very strange landscape.... 

This is the centre of the Galaxy. And in a history without war with the humans, the Xeelee have had time to built an immense structure here. The Xeelee Belt has a radius 10,000 times Earth's orbital distance. It is a light-year in circumference. If it was set in the solar system, it would be out in the Oort Cloud, among the comets - but circling the sun. If it was at rest, it would have a surface area equivalent to about 30 billion Earths. But it is not at rest: it rotates at near light speed. And because of relativistic effects, distances are compressed for inhabitants of the Belt and time drastically slowed.

The purpose of the Belt is to preserve a community of Xeelee into the very far future, when they will be able to tap dark energy, a universe-spanning antigravity field, for their own purposes. But with time the Belt has attracted populations of lesser species, here for the immense surface area, the unending energy flows. Poole, Miriam and their party, having followed the Ghosts, must explore the artefact and survive encounters with its strange inhabitants - before Poole, at last, finds the Xeelee who led the destruction of Earth....

©2018 Stephen Baxter (P)2018 Orion Publishing Group Limited

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  • Greyflood
  • 20-09-2018

A Fitting Conclusion

This book is the epic conclusion not only to its direct predecessor (Xeelee Vengeance) but also to Baxter’s entire Xeelee cycle. Just as in Vengeance, this book is suffused with references and name drops to Baxter’s 20+ year body of work in his main sci fi series, paying off long-time readers while not being so obscure and winky that newcomers feel lost. I have been a fan of Baxter for most of that 20 year history and have been in awe of the universe he created and the scales he envisions. In this book, we finally see many of those massive scales up close and personal for the first time, as Baxter unleashes his imagination on what hitherto purely theoretical concepts would actually look like given a powerful enough uber-species to build them, such as the extreme time dilation at the orbit of a black hole. It’s Baxter in his element, using his deep understanding of math and physics to conjure scientifically-plausible what-if scenarios into functional being.

Michael Poole, longtime hero and protagonist of the Xeelee series, finally ends his arc in this book, with some of Baxter’s best character writing in years. Baxter has been criticized for not caring enough about his human characters and being more concerned with the concepts and processes he’s exploring, which is a somewhat fair criticism, at least in the past, but here he uses a cool piece of technology to give us a unique perspective on Poole, namely a digital clone (Virtual) of Poole himself, who is the same person, but…not. It works surprisingly well, as we get to see the real Poole and all his flaws through his own eyes, which are softened made wiser by that very perspective. Jophiel is one of Baxter’s most interesting protagonists. The other characters are fairly two-dimensional, but a few stand out, such as Nicola. Not incredibly deep, but often a good counterweight to the heavy hard science being bandied about.

The resolution of the book is satisfying, especially if you’re a longtime reader of this series. It brings both timelines together in a satisfying way, and gives us something Baxter’s work is often a bit light on: hope. And for old-time fans like myself, there is, at last, a big reveal of a question that has dominated the series since its beginning, and it’s suitably strange, unsettling, and interesting. This is an epic journey, one that spans time scales that make your head spin, that sees the culmination of all the concepts, themes, and lore of Baxter’s Xeelee-verse come together for the most climactic of climaxes. It’s easily my favorite piece of work in the Xeelee cycle, and my second favorite of his books (my favorite being the non-Xeelee cycle standalone “Evolution”). I doubt we’ll get any more mainline Xeelee stories outside of short fiction, but that’s okay, because Redemption brings a satisfying and appropriate ending to this mind-expanding hard sci fi epic.

The narration is great; there is some controversy over the narrator’s pronunciation of “Xeelee” (he pronounces it “CHEE-lee”) where I and many others have always pronounced it ZEE-lee, but this is a minor quibble and clearly an intentional decision. Not so sure about the Qax (which he pronounces “Chax” but which I have always pronounced "Kax") but whatever. His human inflections and characterizations are convincing and appropriate to the setting and scenes. I dig him.

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  • William L.
  • 10-12-2020

oh my!

I tried so hard but pooped out in the middle of chapter 3. this is mindless words of meaningless drivel chained together painstakingly by a lifeless monotone narrator who spits out the story as if timed by a metronome. what a snoozer! this is a book of adjectives, nothing more. no story by the middle of chapter three??? puhleeeze ! -CPO US Navy Retired
•••somebody save me!•••

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  • R. Carlson
  • 18-02-2021

Not as disappointing as "Vengeance"

The English have a saying, “In for a penny, in for a pound…”. This is how I felt approaching Xeelee Redemption. I had already invested the time in Xeelee Vengeance, and Redemption picks up right where Vengeance left off.
The good bits:
- There’s an ending…It’s not expected and may not be satisfying and leaves many questions unanswered, but there is an ending.
- You get to see all your old fiends – the Ghosts, the Qax (or at least you see Spline ships) Coalescents, Luru Paz (at least by reference) and, of course, the Xeelee
- You actually get a physical description of a Xeelee. This is possibly the first time Baxter ever described them.
- There are some seriously awesome megastructures to deal with
Now the bad bits.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD – if you really want to read the book, stop right here.
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OK, you’ve been warned.
I mean it.
I’m gonna start spoiling right here.

Big Reveal – the XeeLee look like their ships – sycamore seeds with wings. Oh yeah, and they have a bunch of tentacles around their mouth which is located at the front. Yes, they have wings and can presumably swim through space.

OK, that was actually not the most disappointing part, so here goes:

- While you do get to know the Ghosts a little better, their appearance seems to be an immense and useless addition to the story. Aside from transforming one of the crew members into a Human Ghost hybrid and educating you a bit more on the inner workings of Ghost anatomy, there’s really very little point to them being in the story.

- Ditto the Qax, who the narrator in the Audiobook insists on pronouncing as “Chax” (again he’s been pronouncing “Xeelee” as “Chee-lee” since the prior book, but I’ve actually moved beyond this). There’s apparently no point at all in introducing the Qax and you never even get to see them.

- Almost no one in the story is likable. Everyone spends the time interacting like some dysfunctional family. I’ve seen this in some English TV shows – everyone’s an arsehole, everyone’s critical. Maybe it’s just because I’m American and think that an outnumbered, isolated band of explorers spinning toward the end of time should be trying to support and help one another and maybe choose the crew so a couple of them even like each other. Some tension adds to the story, but constant tension simply gets old.

- Many of the characters are introduced and discarded very quickly with almost no care as to how they could have moved the story along. Susan Chen --- 1,000 years old – we never find out what happens to her, she just fades away. Weena – the savage girl who volunteers to travel through time and protect everyone with her bow and arrow (shades of HG Wells! All I could think of was Yvette Mimieux in a loincloth ). She’s pretty much written out after the side trip to High Australia - why did she even sign up to come with the Poole team? We get to see the Coalescents again, but they’re mostly just a cautionary tale of what goes wrong with a Humanity with too much time and too little resources on their hands. The Officers of one of the three “Great Northern” class ships decides that virtual life is just fine, so they head off to M150 (a large cluster of stars) and somehow, they manage to propel the whole star cluster out of the Milky Way just as it collides with Andromeda. This is basically just a footnote. Oh yeah, speaking of footnotes – WHAT HAPPENED TO EVERYONE ON EARTH. There’s a brief quote from someone writing in the year 5,000,000 and an indication that Earth (ejected from the Solar System as the Xeelee destroys it) comes to rest at Wolfs Star and suddenly broadcasts a “who wants to fight? C’mon I’ll take you on” signal somewhere around 3,000,000 AD, but other than that, we don’t know what happens to them. In fact, in the final chapter Baxter abandons everyone except Jophiel and the Michael Poole from the original timeline (the one who ends up stuck till the end of time floating around with his own thoughts, kind of like a Boltzman Brain.)


- We never find out why Baxter can't find some other expletive than “Lethe” (a river in Hades whose waters cause drinkers to forget their past)

To be fair, there’s a lot of stuff packed in here – a (literally) three ring circus (OK, more of a zoo) that the Xeelee has built at the center of the Milky Way where the inner ring rotates so quickly it’s basically a relativistic time machine….cool…The Xeelee plans on whiling away it’s time until Boulder’s Ring is built, and in the meantime creates a “honeypot” to attract a bunch of life forms to take with it to the next universe.

The story as a whole, however, never gives any real satisfaction. The Xeelee remains implacable as ever, even when shot with a monopole gun, while everyone around it tried to guess why it destroyed the Sol system. Best guess: Humans in the first timeline were too successful and exterminated all these neat cultures, all of whom seemed to be bent on galaxy domination, but WTH, they’re baryonic as opposed to the photino Birds, so the only way to stop this was to destroy all Humans so the Xeelee could protect them…while being aloof and implacable… And in the end save them from the Photino Birds.

On that note, let’s also give a moment to contemplate the abject “horror” of the Photino Birds (AKA the Photino Fish). Their goal is to make all the stars into red dwarfs – extremely long lived suns that don’t go “BOOM”. How bad is that? OK, if you’re a low tech civilization you’ll be a bit peeved about global cooling and maybe you won’t find a way to survive. But if you’re a TYPE II civilization, you just move your planet a little closer to the star and Boo-yah! You’re set for the next 100 billion years or so. BONUS! Your 5 Billion Year warranty on your star is now 20X longer! AND, if you’re a really smart Type II civilization, you can easily tee-up to convert to a virtual existence at some point and probably last another 10 trillion years… Thanks Photino Birds/Fish – you guys rock! It’s just the stupid Xeelee who need black holes for geography who can’t survive in this type of universe who hate you!

Overall, I’d say this book was a somewhat indulgent way for Baxter to revisit a lot of old themes without a lot of editorial oversight. Having read Vengeance, I’m glad I read Redemption, but honestly, there were probably a lot better books to spend my time on.

The original Xeelee series was incredible – high concept, suspenseful, surprising, everything this “alternate timeline” series was not.

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  • Glen Grader
  • 19-10-2018

Needed to pay closer attention...

I'm going to have to give this one a second listen. Or better yet get the printed version and actually read it. I have feeling that it will go to a 5-star review if I do. I gravitate toward books that I can listen to on my long commute. This one simply has too much going on to make it a good listen while trying to navigate through rush hour traffic.

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  • DENNIS
  • 12-09-2018

EPIC UNIVERSE SPANNING SPACE OPERA

SHADES OF LARRY NIVEN'S RINGWORLD ON A VASTLY LARGER SCALE,TRAVEL TO THE CENTRE OF THE GALAXY AND SEE THE UNIVERSE AS YOU PROBABLY NEVER IMAGINED IT.WITH A CREW OF FASCINATING CHARACTERS.IF YOU LIKE SPACE OPERA YOU SHOULD LIKE THIS.

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  • Justin Murphy
  • 16-12-2019

Xeelee Redemption: Baxter at his best

I have read a lot of Baxter. Usually I love them but sometimes I don’t. This is one that I love. The action spans the lifetime of the universe; there is plenty of relativity and other bits of physics; and the story keeps moving. The reading is excellent.

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  • D. Marsh
  • 26-09-2018

Good hard sci fi story telling

Maybe not to everyone's taste as most of the conversation is science based, with not the most in depth of characters. Some ideas from other writers in here but on a bigger scale. Unsure of the journey times in here travelling by truck as thing so large. Will look forward to the next installment.

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