Flux by Stephen Baxter
“Dura woke with a start. There was something wrong. The photons didn’t smell right.”
Any story which begins like that can’t help but pique one’s interest and draw you in, and this is just what Flux does.
The third novel in Stephen Baxter’s Xeelee sequence is set inside a neutron star and follows microscopic Human Being, Dura, on a journey from the boondocks of the star’s mantle, downflux to the city of Parz, near the south pole. On arrival in Parz, Dura must survive ‘Glitches’ in the star’s magnetic field, which threaten to destroy the star, and uses ancient technology to continue her journey and investigate who engineered the Human Beings to live in the star and why.
Baxter’s writing continues to improve in this third instalment of the sequence. The necessary technobabble is integrated into the dialogue in a smoother fashion than in the previous books and this helps with the story’s flow. The plot continues to take precedence over characterisation however, but this is to be expected in hard SF novels such as this and is par for the course.
A worthwhile read, if only for the audacity of the author in setting it inside a neutron star and making the world seem plausible. I would recommend reading the preceding Xeelee novel, 'Timelike Infinity’ first, however, or you will not get the most out of it.