Manifold: Space is a science fiction book by British author Stephen Baxter, first published in the United Kingdom in 2000, then released in the United States in 2001. It is the second book of the Manifold series and examines another possible solution to the Fermi paradox. Although it is in no sense a sequel to the first book it contains a number of the same characters, notably protagonist Reid Malenfant, and similar artefacts. The Manifold series contains four books, Manifold: Time, Manifold: Space, Manifold: Origin, and Phase Space.
|Publisher||Voyager (UK) &|
Del Rey Books (US)
|6 October 2000|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Preceded by||Manifold: Time|
|Followed by||Manifold: Origin|
Alien activity is discovered in a Kirkwood gap; the aliens are identified as self-replicating machines (von Neumann probes). Their activity is potentially an immense threat, as Malenfant notes in an earlier speech: "A target system, we assume, is uninhabited. We can therefore program for massive and destructive exploitation of the system's resources, without restraint, by the probe. Such resources are useless for any other purpose, and are therefore economically free to us. And so we colonize, and build."
The self-replicating spacecraft are named Gaijin (Japanese for "foreigner"), after their discovery by a Japanese observer on the Moon. Malenfant travels in a prototype fusion engine to the Kirkwood Gap and discovers an interstellar teleportation device. He travels around the galaxy to uncover information about the Fermi paradox (see below). At the same time, the story also follows the efforts of Humans on Earth and the eventual draining of the Earth's resources, making a move off-world necessary. At the same time small group of humans use anti-aging techniques and an alien form of interstellar teleportation to "parachute" in on the changing solar system over many centuries.
Eventually, it is revealed that in this version of the Fermi paradox, sentient life is endemic throughout the universe; Humanity simply hadn't noticed it earlier because the universe destroys any race before it becomes advanced enough to develop a Type IV civilisation. The story ends with Malenfant helping the Gaijin build a shield to prevent a pulsar from sterilising a large part of the galaxy. Although this project will not be completed before another predicted pulsar event wipes out all extant species, it is hoped to give the sentient aliens who develop from the aftermath of the coming extinction a better chance at long-term survival.
Publishers Weekly was positive in their review saying that "the novel covers far more territory, both in time and distance, than any one person could ever absorb is both a strength and a weakness; suspense is difficult to maintain over the course of centuries. While a large cast of characters helps generate this unwieldy scenario, only their scientific motivations are explored. Science itself is very clearly the star player on this stage. Nonetheless, this focus allows for an exceptionally intricate and original view of the future that both scientists and lay enthusiasts will enjoy." Jackie Cassada in her review for the Library Journal said that Baxter "balances the individual stories of his human protagonists against the panoramic scale of his setting in a landmark work of cosmic speculation".