Timelike Infinity (1992)

Over three thousand years in the future Earth has been taken over by the Qax. But then a spaceship comes back to Earth that has been sent out before the Qax invasion, and with them they have a wormhole opening whose counterpart the Qax destroyed when they invaded the solar system. Alas, the wormhole opening on the human spaceship is connected with the other opening in the past due to time dilations effects. And nobody knows what the plans of the humans on the spaceship are, neither humans nor Qax.

I think I was lucky that Timelike Infinity was the first book by Baxter I read. If it had been Raft for example, I wonder if I would have stopped right there. Timelike Infinity merges great concepts (even mind bending ones) with some, for Baxter at that time, good character development (he has improved over the years, or at least I like to think so) and an interesting plot.

It’s also the best book that introduces the reader to Baxter’s Stapledonian future history, the Xeelee sequence. Unlike in later books, the humans aren’t yet the intergalactic idiots who fight something for no apparent reason, the behavior of all human characters makes sense.

Interestingly the most memorable character of the book is the Qax-collaborator, not the human scientist who is more like a hero. Overall, for such a slim book there’s much story inside, and if you like it, you’re most likely hooked on Baxter’s Xeelee sequence.