Notes for Baxter’s ‘Ark’

Baxter, S. (2009) Ark. London: Gollancz.


Ark notes and quotes

Background to the Great Flood catastrophe

Nobody knew why it should be just now that the deep reservoirs broke open. There had been dramatic and abrupt changes in Earth′s climatic state in the past. Maybe this was just another of those dramatic but natural transitions. Or maybe it was humanity′s fault.

′But in a real sense the cause doesn′t matter,′ Thandie said, ′and it′s futile to assign blame. Whatever the cause, we have to deal with the consequences. (Chapter 6, Kindle Loc 517)

Intertextual reference to the formative writings Tsiolkovsky

I have the qualifications. I studied astronautics in Poznan, before the flooding came. I contributed to European space missions. I have a doctorate in the writings of Tsiolkovsky. With your resources, and my vision – yes, we will build a spaceship, a spacegoing ark.′ (Chapter 7, Kindle Loc 577)

Intertextual – When Worlds Collide

Patrick asked, ′What exactly are we talking about building here?′

Liu Zheng said, ′A means to send a viable population away from the Earth.′ Jerzy said, ′An ark.′

′No less than Ark One, damn it,′ Kenzie said. ′I made sure we secured that little honour from Nathan Lammockson and those other assholes.′ He clapped Patrick on the shoulder. ′Did you never see When Worlds Collide? (Chapter 9, Kindle Loc 647)

The perennial destination – Alpha Centauri – four light years away

Jerzy Glemp shrugged. ′Well, there′s the rub. The nearest star system is Alpha Centauri – four light years away. That′s a distance hard to grasp. It′s around forty trillion kilometres. A hundred million times further away than the moon is from Earth.′ (Chapter 10, Kindle Loc 826)

Snatty uniforms and amazing children assisted by AI implants

A dozen students of Holle′s age cadre, twelve to fourteen, sat on the polished floor in a loose circle around Howe, who sat on the only chair in the room. They were mostly wearing their fancy new Candidates′ costumes, robust one-piece Lycra uniforms in royal blue with crimson sleeves and rib panels. As usual, people were multi-tasking, breaking off in little huddles to discuss some assignment or other, or working through material on laptops and handhelds. Venus Argent was walking around the book stacks, browsing; the room doubled as the Academy′s library. Some students had the abstracted look that came from the murmuring of Angels in their heads. Thomas Windrup and Elle Strekalov were sharing the feed from an Angel. Thirteen years old, their hands intertwined, they rocked gently together. (14 May 2032, Kindle Loc 1265)

Designing technology for a GS including AI systems

′But my point is that there are precedents of technologies being maintained for long periods – even across multiple generations, even centuries. We can look at these cases and abstract those features that enabled them to endure.

You need to ensure your machine has clarity of purpose and a compelling need to exist. You need to design on a basis of supreme reliability and low failure rates. And you need to build in ease of maintenance, redundancy, robustness of components. All of which argues against some of the fancier stuff you folks cook up. Nanotech. Self-replicating machines. Autonomous AIs, a ship that can run itself. These are things which we don′t know how to do. The experience of decades of space missions is that you use stuff that′s no more complex than it needs to be, and is proven in flight. No fancy, unproven technologies. (18 September 2036, Kindle Loc 1600)

The great Space Fuck intertextual reference to Vonnegut, an aside to Seven Eves and a fair point

Kelly often loudly advocated taking just women and buckets of frozen sperm. Better yet, you could take frozen zygotes and let the first generation of colonists be raised by machine. (18 September 2036, Kindle Loc 1619)

Leaks and waste and technology to be sustainable

′ECLSS′ was the environmental control and life support system, complicated mechanisms devoted to the air scrubbing and water cycling on which all their lives depended. The target was ambitious. There would always be leaks and wastage, but they were aiming to keep the loops of air and water and other essentials closed tight enough to last for years. (Chapter 47, Kindle Loc 4104)

The Warp Bubble to exceed 3 times lightspeed

The interstellar cruise was planned for a nominal duration of seven years. Inside its warp bubble the Ark would be able to reach velocities of around three times lightspeed, so that put a limit on the journey of some twenty light years. There were around seventy star systems within that radius, most of them systems of multiple stars. (49 – June 2043, Kindle Loc 4104)

Description of the visible universe in a warp bubble

A warp bubble was a patchwork of universes, stitched together by a thin, dynamic, highly deformed layer of spacetime. That deformity meant a strong gravity field, and the path of a light ray could be bent by gravity – which was how Einstein′s relativity had first been validated, when starlight was observed to be bent by the sun′s gravity during a solar eclipse. So the warp bubble acted as a lens wrapped around the ship, a lens of gravity that deflected the starlight that washed over the Ark.

The distortions were strongest ahead of and directly behind the ship′s motion. Ahead, space appeared crumpled up around the destination point, like a blanket being gathered in. Behind, though, in the direction of the sun and Earth, it was a different story, and a stranger one. The sun lay in the constellation of Opiuchus, the serpent-bearer, directly opposite Orion and Eridanus in the sky. But in that direction there was only darkness, a murky, muddy disc surrounded by faint stars. The ship was simply outrunning the photons coming from the sun and its planets. (57 – September 2044, Kindle Loc 4973)

Too much time in the dream tanks as in Tau Zero and Ariana

Either she had been skipping meals or she had been swapping food for HeadSpace credits. Wilson hauled at the data cable connecting Cora to the booth, pulling her away from Holle. Cora slipped and fell backwards to the mesh floor. She lay there, panting hard, her face twisted.

Holle was shocked at the state Cora was in, and felt guilty she hadn′t noticed. Holle had grown up with this woman. Cora had always been beautiful, bright, flirtatious, a livewire party girl. Maybe all that energy had been turned in on herself, in the confines of the Ark. (Chapter 61, Kindle Loc 5321)

Hostages to the designers, the builders

And yet, are we all hostages on this Ark, hostage to the ambitions of the mission designers?′ (Chapter 62, Kindle Loc 5426)

Kelly urges the crew to return to Earth

′And so we should go home.′ She glared around, as if daring anybody here to shout her down. ′We don′t travel on and on. We go home, to Earth.′

Venus said, ′That′s impossible. Go home to what? Next year Everest drowns.′

′We′ll cope with whatever we find. The Ark was designed to sustain us for fifteen years, as a margin; I′m sure we can extend that to cover the seven years of superluminal travel it would take to get us back. Zane, we have enough antimatter stock to recreate the warp bubble, don′t we? We can go home. We must! We tried our hardest, we came all this way, it didn′t work. This is no place for us, for our children. Let′s take them home, and see what we can build on Earth.′ (Chapter 71, Kindle Loc 6463)


Execution of the leaders of the rebellion

′I don′t want leadership,′ Holle said. ′Not among the shipborn. I don′t want vision, or idealism, or curiosity, or initiative. I don′t want courage. All I want is obedience. It′s all I can afford, until we′re down on Earth III and the day comes when we can crack open the domes and let the kids just walk away. Yes, she′s the best of her generation, and that′s why she′s such a danger. We have to make the process as public as possible. In fact that′s the point. But in the end, yes, she′ll die. Grace, I′ll expect you to make recommendations on how we do that, fast and painless.′ (Chapter 89, Kindle Loc 8181)

Condemned to the journey

Nobody should be made to endure a journey like this. Nobody should condemn a generation of children to grow up in a cage.′ (Chapter 90, May 2078, Kindle Loc 8259)

Growing sense of illusion about the GS voyage

“…even though at thirty-six years old she was among the very oldest of the shipborn, she couldn′t remember Earth herself. Intellectually she believed that the stars were real, that Earth was real, that there really had been a flood that had drowned a planetary civilisation, and that in only three more years they would reach Earth III.” (Chapter 90, May 2078, Kindle Loc 8259)