“Ark” by Stephen Baxter (Roc, 2010)


After the interesting Flood comes the gripping sequel from Stephen Baxter, Ark. The world is mostly underwater, with a small number of areas left afloat.  There is the Himalayan region, as Russia, Asia and India fight for a dwindling piece of land; a small portion of the Alps is all that remains of Europe; and there is a portion of the Rockies in Colorado.  The Ark ship is starting to age rapidly, as the world fights for a very limited number of resources, as the years go by.  Through a terrorist attack, the ship is blown to pieces and from then on the characters from Flood must create their own ships of refuge and leftover, floating pieces, with little hope of change or improvement in store for them.  Holle Groundwater, daughter of one of the hostages in Flood, is left in Colorado and becomes part of a very select and élite team for another Ark project – a spaceship to travel to the stars and find Earth II.

The first part of the book is spent covering this team’s training, development and education from children to skilled personnel, as Baxter jumps from character to character around the world, revealing the true state of things.  The rest of the book is spent covering this Ark’s trip to the distant planet far away, which takes decades to reach.  Along the way the population goes through ups and downs, as they are put through the stresses of living and existing in this confined environment.  Ark becomes more of a commentary on where humanity could be headed under certain conditions, as we are brought down to our “base instincts” at certain points.  The result is a compelling novel of science fiction that will have the reader questioning many things about humanity, along with a multitude of “What ifs?”

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Originally published on the Sacramento Book Review.

Originally written on July 24 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.