“One of the best SF writers in the business . . . [Manifold: Origin is] filled with marvelous scientific speculations, strange events, novel concepts, and an awe-inspiring sense of the wonders of the universe.”—Science Fiction Chronicle
In the year 2015, astronaut Reid Malenfant is flying over the African continent, intent on examining a mysterious glowing construct in Earth’s orbit. But when the very fabric of the sky tears open, spilling living creatures to the ground and pulling others inside (including his wife, Emma), Malenfant’s quest to uncover the unknown becomes personal. While desperately searching to discover what happened to the woman he loves, Malenfant embarks upon an adventure to the very fount of human development . . . on earth and beyond.
This third and final book in Baxter's ambitious trilogy, whose vast scale calls to mind Asimov's Foundation series, shares the same strengths and weaknesses as the two previous volumes, Manifold: Space and Manifold: Time. More anthropology than hard SF, the novel follows the disjointed adventures of series hero Reid Malenfant's wife, Emma Stoney, on the hostile surface of an alien red moon that mysteriously replaces Earth's moon. Using multiple viewpoints (sometimes within the same paragraph), the author details the primitive thinking of at least five hominid races (higher humans included) that inhabit the red moon and of a super-race that's been manipulating human evolution. Once Emma sorts out the evolutionary differences, she favors the Runners (Australopithecines) and Hams (Neandertals) over the higher humans, who have foisted their crude fundamentalist religious beliefs on the other races. A variety of characters speculate on the simpler aspects of Darwinian theory, but somewhat disappointingly they all reach the same conclusion. Gratuitous violence from time to time offers relief from the challenge of keeping straight the host of loosely related story lines. Baxter fans should be well satisfied, but those who prefer more thought-provoking SF will need to look elsewhere. FYI:The second book of the trilogy,Manifold: Time, was nominated for an Arthur C. Clarke Award.
This is a decent conclusion to an outstanding trilogy. It's a rather drastic departure from the first two volumes, but there's still much to appreciate.
Sample Before Buying
I absolutely loved Baxter's Manifold: Time. It's one of the best Hard SF books I've read in a very long time. It's full of giant, brilliant ideas of dazzeling scope and beauty. And Manifold: Space is quite simply outstanding. But the sample of Manifold: Origin gave me cause for serious concern. Intelligent reviews from multiple sources have confirmed my disappointment. I won't be buying this book.