Stephen Baxter – World Engines Series
Narrated by: Penelope Rawlins, Christopher Ragland, Damian Lynch, Stephanie Racine
In the year 2570, a sleeper will wake….
In the mid-21st century, the Kernel, a strange object on a 500-year-orbit, is detected coming from high above the plane of the solar system. Could it be an alien artefact?
In the middle of climate-change crises, there is no mood for space-exploration stunts – but Reid Malenfant, elderly, once a shuttle pilot and frustrated would-be asteroid miner, decides to go take a look anyway. Nothing more is heard of him. But his ex-wife, Emma Stoney, sets up a trust fund to search for him the next time the Kernel returns….
By 2570 Earth is transformed. A mere billion people are supported by advanced technology on a world that is almost indistinguishable from the natural, with recovered forests, oceans, ice caps. It is not an age for expansion; there are only small science bases beyond the Earth. But this is a world you would want to live in: a Star Trek without the stars.
After 500 years the Kernel returns, and a descendant of Stoney, who Malenfant will call Emma II, mounts a mission to see what became of Malenfant. She finds him still alive, cryo-preserved….
His culture-shock encounter with a conservative future is entertaining….
But the Kernel itself turns out to be attached to a kind of wormhole, through which Malenfant and Emma II, exploring further, plummet back in time, across five billion years….
Trapped on an alternate Earth, the combined crews of a crashed Russian spaceship, a British expeditionary force and a group of strays from the future must work together to survive, escape and discover what led them to this point. All are from parallel universes where small changes in history led to different realities, and the tensions between the groups are rising.
But some changes were not small. The solar system has been altered, changed, shaped in the various realities, and the World Engineers – unspeakably powerful, completely unknown – are still active. Why have they populated this planet with humanity’s ancestors and dinosaurs? What is on the moon of Saturn that gives off such an odd light? And even if they can be found, can they be stopped – and should they be?
Malenfant, Deidra and the rest of their party must find a way off the planet, back into space, and into the many dimensions seeking the answer….