“Stephen Baxter has been heralded, with some merit, as Arthur C. Clarke’s literary heir, and Proxima certainly reinforces this accolade in spades.”—Concatenation
Mankind’s future in this galaxy could be all but infinite.
There are hundreds of billions of red dwarf stars, lasting trillions of years—and their planets can be habitable for humans. Such is the world of Proxima Centauri. And its promise could mean the never-ending existence of humanity.
But first it must be colonized, and no one wants to be a settler. There is no glamor that accompanies it, nor is there the ease of becoming a citizen of an already-tamed world. There is only hardship...loneliness...emptiness, even as war brews in the solar system.
But that’s where Yuri comes in. Because sometimes exploration isn’t voluntary. It must be coerced.
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Stephen Baxter is the national bestselling author of Ark and Flood. He is a winner of the British Science Fiction Award and the Locus Award, as well as a nominee for several Arthur C. Clarke and Hugo awards. His novel Voyage won the Sidewise Award for the best alternate history novel of the year, and he won the Philip K. Dick Award twice, for The Time Ships and for Vacuum Diagrams. He was also a recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for The Time Ships.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I’m back on Earth.
That was Yuri’s very first thought, on waking in a bed: a hard bed, stiff mattress and lightweight sheets and blankets, but a bed nonetheless, not a barrack bunk stacked four high in a dome on Mars.
He opened his eyes to bright light, from fluorescent bars on the walls. A clean-looking ceiling. People moving around him wearing green shirts and hygiene caps and masks, a low murmur of competent voices, machines that bleeped and chimed. Other beds, other patients. A classic hospital setup. He saw all this in his peripheral vision; he hadn’t turned his head yet, he felt so heavy.
The last thing he remembered was the needle jabbed into his neck by that asshole Peacekeeper Tollemache. He had no idea how long he’d been out—months, if he’d been shipped back to Earth—and he remembered from his recovery after his decades in the cryo that it paid to take care on waking.
But he knew he was on Earth. He could feel it in his bones. Yuri had been born on Earth in the year 2067, nearly a hundred years ago, and, dozing in a cryo tank, had missed mankind’s heroic expansion out into the solar system. He had woken up in a colony on what he had learned, gradually, was Mars. But now, after another compulsory sleep, this was different again. He risked lifting his hand. The muscles in his arm ached, just doing that, and he felt tubes dragging at him as he moved, and the hand fell back with a satisfyingly heavy thump. Beautiful Earth gravity, not that neither-one-thing-nor-the-other floaty stuff on Mars. It could only be Earth, home.
He had a million questions. Such as where on Earth? Why had he been sent back instead of being left to rot on Mars? And what kind of institution was he in now, what kind of prison this time? But not having answers didn’t bother him. He’d had very few answers about anything since waking up on Mars, and besides, he hadn’t cared enough to ask. The worst kind of cage on Earth, and no matter how much the place had changed since he’d gone into the cryo tank, was better than the finest luxury you could find on Mars. Because on Earth you could always just open the door and breathe the air, even if it was an overheated polluted soup, and just keep on walking, forever . . .
He closed his eyes.
“Rise and shine, sleepyhead.”
There was a face looming over him, a woman, black, wearing a green shirt with a name tag he couldn’t read, her hair tucked into a green cloth cap. She wasn’t wearing a mask, and she smiled at him. She looked tired.
He tried to speak. His mouth was dry, and his tongue stuck painfully to the roof of his mouth. “I . . . I . . .”
“Here. Have a sip of water.” She held a nippled bottle, like a baby’s, for him. The water was warm and stale. She seemed to be having trouble holding up the bottle, like she was weak herself. “Do you know your name?” She glanced at the foot of the bed. “Yuri Eden. That’s all we have for you. No recorded next of kin. Is that right?”
He just shrugged, a tentative movement, flat on his back.
She looked him over, peered into his eyes, checked some kind of monitor beside the bed. “My name is Dr. Poinar. I’m ISF. I have a crew rank but you can call me Doctor. You’ve taken your time coming out of the induced coma the Peacekeepers put you into. Still, it was easier to ship you through the launch that way. More than half the crew dreamed it all away, in fact. I’m going to see if I can sit you up. OK?” She pressed a button.
With a whir of servos the back of his bed began to tip up, lifting him, bending him at the waist. He felt weak, and his head was like a tub of sloshing liquid. The ward grayed around him. He felt a crawling sensation in his right arm, some kind of fluid being pumped into him.
Dr. Poinar watched him carefully. “You OK? All right. Here’s the five-second briefing—you’ll be put through a proper induction process later, everybody’s going through that in stages, classroom stuff and data access first while you get your strength back, then physical work later, including your share of maintenance chores.” She glanced at his notes. “More of that if you end up on a punishment detail, and looking at your record that seems more than likely. But the priority for you is reconditioning. Your body needs to relearn how to handle full gravity. The nerve receptors that handle your posture, positioning and movement are all baffled right now. Your inner ear doesn’t know what the hell’s going on. Your fluid balance is all wrong, and you’re going to have low blood pressure symptoms for a while. Here, drink this.”
She handed him another flask, and this time he took it for himself. It was a briny fluid that made him splutter.
“You’ll get courses of injections to rectify your bone calcium loss and such. And physio to build up your muscle strength and bone mass. Do not skip those. Oh, and your immune system will be hit. Every virus everybody brought into this hull has been running around like crazy; you’ll have a few weeks of fun with that. Later on there will be further medical programs, pre-adaptation for Prox, preventive surgery of various kinds.” She grinned, faintly cruelly. “How are your teeth? But that won’t be for another year or more.”
A baby started to cry, not far away.
Dr. Poinar asked, “Any questions? Oh, I’m sure there are masses. Just use your common sense. For now just sit there and let the dizziness pass. Don’t lie down again. I’ll come by later and see if you can take some solid food. And watch out for the catheter. The nurse will remove that later. Take it easy, Yuri Eden.” She walked out of his view.
Still that baby cried, not far to his left.
Very cautiously he turned his head that way; the graying returned, and a ringing in his ears, but he waited until it passed. He saw more beds crowded into a room that couldn’t have been more than seven, eight meters across, smaller than he had expected. Some of the beds had cloth partitions around them. More medical types and a couple of servo-robots glided through the narrow spaces between the beds. Equipment dangled from the ceiling, including what looked like a teleoperated surgical kit, all manipulator arms and laser nozzles and knives.
In the bed closest to Yuri, to his left, lay a young woman, a girl really, pale, blond hair, fragile-looking. Intensely beautiful. She cradled a baby, a bundle of blankets; as she rocked it, the crying slowly subsided. She saw Yuri looking. He turned his head away, making his vision spin again. At Eden he’d developed the habit of avoiding eye contact, of giving people their own bubbles of privacy.
“It’s OK.” Her accent was soft, maybe eastern European.
He looked back. “Didn’t mean to stare.” His voice was a husk.
“Well, little Cole was crying, disturbing everybody.” She smiled. “Sorry if he woke you up.”
That puzzled him. Then he realized she was joking. He tried to smile, but he had no idea what kind of grimace his numb face was pulling.
“My name is Anna Vigil.”
“Yuri Eden. I heard the doctor say.” Little Cole wriggled and gurgled softly. “He’s fine. I’m the one who had to come in here. A cold virus laid me out; I’m still weak from nursing. Of course we shouldn’t be here at all. I was heavily pregnant when the sweep came. There was a mix-up. Cole’s the only child in here.”
“Cole, huh. Nice name.”
She seemed to think that over, as if his responses were a little off. “I named him for Dexter Cole, of course. The first guy to Proxima.”
Of course. Who? Where? He backed away from the puzzling little conversation, retreated into himself.
He turned his head to the right.
In the bed on that side was a man, around thirty, Asiatic. His scalp was swathed in bandages, and the left side of his face was puffed up with bruising that almost closed one eye. Even so, he smiled. “You OK?”
Yuri shrugged stiffly.
“Listen. It’s just the go-to-sleep stuff the cops give you. They don’t use it sparingly. I took a couple of doses of that myself, while I tried to explain in a calm manner that as a foreign national I did not belong in their sweep for the Ad Astra. Takes you time to wake up from that. Don’t worry, the fog will clear.” His accent sounded American, west coast maybe, but Yuri’s ear was a hundred years out-of-date.
Yuri said, “Thanks. But I’m guessing that’s not why you’re in here. The sleep thing.”
“You ought to be a doctor. No, the big guy put me in here this time. Although the time before it was a couple of Peacekeepers—they managed to break a rib while persuading me—”
“The big guy?”
“Gustave Klein, he’s called. I guess you wouldn’t know that. King of the Hull, or thinks he is. Watch out for him. So, Yuri Eden, huh? I never came across you on Mars. My name is Liu Tao.” He spelled it out.
“Me? No. But I learned English in a school for USNA expats in New Beijing. That’s why my accent is kind of old-fashioned; everybody picks up on that. I’m Chinese. I’m actually an officer in the People’s space fleet. Yuri Eden? Is that really your name? You lived in Eden, right?”
“What was it like?”
Lacking any kind of common reference with this guy, Yuri tried to describe it. Eden had been the UN’s largest outpost on Mars, and one of the oldest. People lived in cylindrical bulks like Nissen huts that were the remains of the first ships to land, tipped over and heaped with dirt and turned into shelters, and in prefabricated domes, and even in a few buildings of red Martian sandstone blocks. The whole place had had the feel of a prison to Yuri, or a labor camp. And all this was just a pinprick, a hold-out; the scuttlebutt was that a colony like this would be dwarfed by the giant cities the Chinese were building on the rest of the planet, like their capital, Obelisk, in Terra Cimmeria.
Liu Tao listened, his face neutral.
Yuri asked, “So how did you end up here?”
“Bad luck. I was piloting a shuttle down from Red Two, that’s one of our orbital stations, heading for our supply depots and manufactories in the Phaethontis quadrangle, when we had an auxiliary power-unit failure. We had to bail out at high altitude, my buddy and I, which is no joke on Mars. He got down safely—well, I guess so; I was never told. My clamshell, my heat shield, had a crack. I was lucky to live through it. But I came down near Eden, and a couple of your Peacekeepers were the first to get to me.
“They held on to me, in defiance of various treaties. I was put through a lot of ‘questioning.’” He let that word hang. “They wanted me to tell them the inner secrets of the Triangle. You know about that? The big trade loop we’re developing, Earth to asteroids and Mars and back. But I’m a Mars-orbit shuttle jock, that’s all. By Mao’s balls, it’s not as if we’re spying on you guys at Eden!” He laughed at that idea. “Well, they kept me in there, and I started to think they were never going to let me go—I mean maybe they’d told my chain of command they’d found me dead or something. What were they going to do to me, kill me? I guess it’s no surprise that they threw me into the sweep and locked me up in this hull, right? Out of sight, out of mind. But we’re all prisoners here . . .”
“Nobody’s a prisoner,” said Dr. Poinar, bustling down the ward with a tray of colorful pills. “That’s what the policy says, so it must be true, right? Now take this, Yuri Eden. You need more sleep.”
Confused, as weak as Anna’s baby, yet still elated at the basic fact that he’d come home, even if he was stuck in this “hull,” Yuri obediently took his tablet and subsided into a deep dreamless sleep.
After a day of cautious bending, stretching, walking, and using a lavatory unaided, Yuri was told by Dr. Poinar that his time was up. “We need your bed. Sorry, buddy. You’ll be assigned a bunk later. Any possessions you had—”
“Right now you’re late for a class.”
“Orientation 101,” Liu Tao said. “Some astronaut showing us pretty pictures.” He laughed, though he winced when he opened his bruised mouth wide.
“You’re in the same class, Liu. Why don’t you show your new best friend the way?” Poinar dumped heaps of basic clothing on their beds, bright orange, and walked away.
Yuri had thought the medical ward was crowded, noisy. But once Liu led him outside, into a space that struck Yuri at first glance as like the inside of a big metal tower, he realized that the ward had been a haven of peace and harmony. Looking up he saw that the tower wasn’t that tall, maybe forty, forty-five meters, and was capped off by a big metal dome. It was split into stories by mesh-partition flooring; there were ladders and a kind of spiral staircase around the wall, and a fireman’s pole arrangement that threaded through gaps in the partitions along the tower’s axis. The walls were crusted with equipment boxes and stores, but in some places he saw tables and chairs, lightweight fold-out affairs, and enclosures, partitions inside which he could see bunk beds, more fold-outs. There were folk in there evidently trying to sleep; he had no idea how they’d manage that. It looked like sleep was going to be a luxury here, just like on Mars.
And in this tank, people swarmed everywhere, most of them dressed like Yuri and Liu in bright orange jumpsuits, a few others in Peacekeeper blue, or a more exotic black and silver. They were all adults that he could see, no kids, no infants. Their voices echoed from the metal surfaces in a jangling racket. And over all that there was a whir of pumps and fans, of air-conditioning and plumbing of some kind, just like in Eden. Like he was in another sealed unit.
Liu, moving cautiously himself—evidently it hadn’t been just his face that had taken the beating—took Yuri to that outer staircase, steps fixed to the curving wall with a safety rail, and led him up.
At least, just like on Mars, Yuri didn’t find the stuff here hard. Since his first waking, he’d found twenty-second-century technology easy to work. User interfaces seemed to have settled down to common standards some time before he’d been frozen. Even the language had stabilized, more or less, if not the accents; English was spoken across several worlds now and had to stay comprehensible to everybody, and there was a huge mass of recorded culture, all of which tended to keep the language static. The vehicles and vocabularies of the year 2166 were easy. It was the people he couldn’t figure out. And now Yuri climbed through a blizzard of faces, none of them familiar.
He looked for a window. He still had no idea where on Earth he was. And why the enclosure? Maybe he was in some mid-latitude climate refuge; he’d heard that since his day the whole middle belt of the Earth had heated up, dried out and been abandoned. He could be anywhere. But that steady pull of gravity was reassuring, even as he labored up the stairs with his Mars-softened muscles. He wondered when his first physio was going to be.
They reached a space enclosed by movable partition panels, with fold-out chairs set in rows like a lecture thea...
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Buchbeschreibung Gollancz Orion Publishing Group Okt 2014, 2014. Taschenbuch. Buchzustand: Neu. Neuware - An awe-inspiring Planetary Romance from Terry Pratchett's co-author on the Long Earth Books The very far future: The Galaxy is a drifting wreck of black holes, neutron stars, chill white dwarfs. The age of star formation is long past. Yet there is life here, feeding off the energies of the stellar remnants, and there is mind, a tremendous Galaxy-spanning intelligence each of whose thoughts lasts a hundred thousand years. And this mind cradles memories of a long-gone age when a more compact universe was full of light . The 27th century: Proxima Centauri, an undistinguished red dwarf star, is the nearest star to our sun - and (in this fiction), the nearest to host a world, Proxima IV, habitable by humans. But Proxima IV is unlike Earth in many ways. Huddling close to the warmth, orbiting in weeks, it keeps one face to its parent star at all times. The 'substellar point', with the star forever overhead, is a blasted desert, and the 'antistellar point' on the far side is under an ice cap in perpetual darkness. How would it be to live on such a world Yuri Jones, with 1,000 others, is about to find out . PROXIMA tells the amazing tale of how we colonise a harsh new eden, and the secret we find there that will change our role in the Universe for ever. 464 pp. Englisch. Artikel-Nr. 9780575116856