Half a million years in the future, on a dead, war-ravaged world at the centre of the Galaxy, there is a mile-high statue of Michael Poole.
Poole, born on Earth in the fourth millennium, was one of mankind's most influential heroes. He was not a warrior, not an emperor. He was an engineer, a builder of wormhole transit systems. But Poole's work would ultimately lead to a vast and destructive conflict, a million-year war between humanity and the enigmatic, powerful aliens known as the Xeelee.
The Xeelee won, but at a huge cost. And, defeated in a greater war, the Xeelee eventually fled the universe. Most of them.
A handful were left behind, equipped with time travel capabilities, their task to tidy up: to reorder history more to the Xeelee's liking. That million-year war with humankind was one blemish. It had to be erased. And in order to do that, a lone Xeelee was sent back in time to remove Michael Poole from history . . .
Baxter’s imagination is the greatest in the universe
Once more he brings us to encounters with the greatest artifacts, most mind boggling science and by far and away the greatest aliens in sci-fi. The scale and grandeur of his conceptions are beyond compare and he keeps adding more to the Xelee sequence. Gregory Benford’s Galactic Center series is in a similar vein, and both show how being science trained, makes for great hard sci-fi, just as Dr Asimov, Arthur C Clarke and Robert Forward were.
Bravo, Mr Baxter, your Wheel makes Ringworld look like a toy by comparison, and the Ring,!!! The Xelee make the Q continuum look like ranch amateurs. Hard sci-fi at its pinnacle is what this is.