The Firstborn–the mysterious race of aliens who first became known to science fiction fans as the builders of the iconic black monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey–have inhabited legendary master of science fiction Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s writing for decades. With Time’s Eye and Sunstorm, the first two books in their acclaimed Time Odyssey series, Clarke and his brilliant co-author Stephen Baxter imagined a near-future in which the Firstborn seek to stop the advance of human civilization by employing a technology indistinguishable from magic.
Their first act was the Discontinuity, in which Earth was carved into sections from different eras of history, restitched into a patchwork world, and renamed Mir. Mir’s inhabitants included such notables as Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and United Nations peacekeeper Bisesa Dutt. For reasons unknown to her, Bisesa entered into communication with an alien artifact of inscrutable purpose and godlike power–a power that eventually returned her to Earth. There, she played an instrumental role in humanity’s race against time to stop a doomsday event: a massive solar storm triggered by the alien Firstborn designed to eradicate all life from the planet. That fate was averted at an inconceivable price. Now, twenty-seven years later, the Firstborn are back.
This time, they are pulling no punches: They have sent a “quantum bomb.” Speeding toward Earth, it is a device that human scientists can barely comprehend, that cannot be stopped or destroyed–and one that will obliterate Earth.
Bisesa’s desperate quest for answers sends her first to Mars and then to Mir, which is itself threatened with extinction. The end seems inevitable. But as shocking new insights emerge into the nature of the Firstborn and their chilling plans for mankind, an unexpected ally appears from light-years away.
When Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the greatest science fiction writer ever, teams up with award-winning author Stephen Baxter, who shares Clarke’s bold vision of a future where technology and humanism advance hand in hand, the result is bound to be a book of stellar ambition and accomplishment. Such was the case with Time’s Eye. Now, in the highly anticipated sequel, Clarke and Baxter draw their epic to a triumphant conclusion that is as mind-blowing as anything in Clarke’s famous Space Odyssey series.
Returned to the Earth of 2037 by the Firstborn, mysterious beings of almost limitless technological prowess, Bisesa Dutt is haunted by the memories of her five years spent on the strange alternate Earth called Mir, a jigsaw-puzzle world made up of lands and people cut out of different eras of Earth’s history. Why did the Firstborn create Mir? Why was Bisesa taken there and then brought back on the day after her original disappearance?
Bisesa’s questions receive a chilling answer when scientists discover an anomaly in the sun’s core–an anomaly that has no natural cause is evidence of alien intervention over two thousand years before. Now plans set in motion millennia ago by inscrutable watchers light-years away are coming to fruition in a sunstorm designed to scour the Earth of all life in a bombardment of deadly radiation.
Thus commences a furious race against a ticking solar time bomb. But even now, as apocalypse looms, cooperation is not easy for the peoples and nations of the Earth. Religious and political differences threaten to undermine every effort.
Sir Arthur C. Clarke is a living legend, a writer whose name has been synonymous with science fiction for more than fifty years. An indomitable believer in human and scientific potential, Clarke is a genuine visionary. If Clarke has an heir among today’s science fiction writers, it is award-winning author Stephen Baxter. In each of his acclaimed novels, Baxter has demonstrated dazzling gifts of imagination and intellect, along with a rare ability to bring the most cerebral science dramatically to life. Now these two champions of humanism and scientific speculation have combined their talents in a novel sure to be one of the most talked-about of the year, a 2001 for the new millennium.
For eons, Earth has been under observation by the Firstborn, beings almost as old as the universe itself. The Firstborn are unknown to humankind— until they act. In an instant, Earth is carved up and reassembled like a huge jigsaw puzzle. Suddenly the planet and every living thing on it no longer exist in a single timeline. Instead, the world becomes a patchwork of eras, from prehistory to 2037, each with its own indigenous inhabitants.
Scattered across the planet are floating silver orbs impervious to all weapons and impossible to communicate with. Are these technologically advanced devices responsible for creating and sustaining the rifts in time? Are they cameras through which inscrutable alien eyes are watching? Or are they something stranger and more terrifying still?
The answer may lie in the ancient city of Babylon, where two groups of refugees from 2037—three cosmonauts returning to Earth from the International Space Station, and three United Nations peacekeepers on a mission in Afghanistan—have detected radio signals: the only such signals on the planet, apart from their own. The peacekeepers find allies in nineteenth-century British troops and in the armies of Alexander the Great. The astronauts, crash-landed in the steppes of Asia, join forces with the Mongol horde led by Genghis Khan. The two sides set out for Babylon, each determined to win the race for knowledge . . . and the power that lies within.
Yet the real power is beyond human control, perhaps even human understanding. As two great armies face off before the gates of Babylon, it watches, waiting. . . .