Science fiction authors the world over will be thanking Stephen Baxter for this handy tome on the SF of James Cameron’s Avatar . Not specific simply to the film, Baxter’s book covers everything a modern writer of speculative space adventures might need to tell a convincing tale: quantum entanglement, relativity, eco-apocalypse, time dilation, super conductors, military tech, blue shift, red shift… And all in handy, easy-to-digest chunks.
The book tackles those specific parts of Avatar which are not common to SF in general. Particularly engrossing is the exploration of the Alpha Centauri system, from planetary formation right the way down to the way Pandora’s magnetic fields affect its life. It’s here that Baxter becomes coy. Granted full access to cast and crew, he never outright says “well, this is obviously nonsense”, even about flying mountains – although he does drop hints. For Avatar fans, there’s plenty of detail mined from Cameron’s backstory and universe. Avatar , flaws aside, is more rather than less rooted in actual science; this book reveals just how deeply.
Less engaging is Baxter’s non-fiction style. He’s a tremendous talent when writing stories, and to his credit he conveys complicated concepts clearly here, but he lacks journalistic flair. That just occasionally makes the book a little stilted.
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