Xeelee Sequence

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The Xeelee Sequence (/ˈzl/; ZEE-lee) is a series of hard science fiction space opera novels, novellas, and short stories written by British science fiction author Stephen Baxter. The series spans billions of years of fictional history, centering on humanity's future expansion into the universe, its cosmos-spanning war with an enigmatic and supremely powerful Type IV[1] alien civilization called the Xeelee, and the Xeelee's own war with dark matter entities called Photino Birds. The series features many other species and civilizations that play a prominent role, including the Squeem (a species of group mind aquatics), the Qax (beings whose biology is based on the complex interactions of convection cells), and the Silver Ghosts (symbiotic organisms encased in reflective shells). Several stories in the Sequence also deal with humans and posthumans living in extreme conditions, such as at the heart of a neutron star (Flux), in a separate universe with considerably stronger gravity (Raft), and within eusocial hive societies (Coalescent).[2][3][4]

The Xeelee Sequence treats ideas stemming from the fringe of theoretical physics and futurology, such as exotic-matter physics, naked singularities, closed timelike curves, multiple universes, hyperadvanced computing and artificial intelligence, faster-than-light travel, and the upper echelons of the Kardashev scale. Thematically, the series deals heavily with certain existential and social philosophical issues, such as striving for survival and relevance in a harsh and unknowable universe and the effects of war and militarism on society.[5][6]

As of June 2017, the series is composed of eight novels and 53 short pieces (short stories and novellas), all of which fit into a fictional timeline stretching from the Big Bang singularity of the past to the eventual heat death of the universe and Timelike Infinity singularity of the future.[7] An omnibus edition of the first four Xeelee novels (Raft, Timelike Infinity, Flux, and Ring), entitled Xeelee: An Omnibus, was released in January 2010.[8] In August 2016, the entire series of all novels and stories (up to that date) was released as one volume in e-book format entitled Xeelee Sequence: The Complete Series.[9] Baxter's Destiny's Children series is part of the Xeelee Sequence.


Baxter first conceived of the Xeelee while hobby writing a short story in the summer of 1986 (that would later be published in Interzone as "The Xeelee Flower" in 1987). He incorporated powerful off-stage aliens to explain the story’s titular artifact, and in pondering the backstory began to flesh out the basics of what would later become the main players and setting of the Sequence: a universe full of intelligent species that live in the shadow of the incomprehensible and god-like Xeelee.[10]


Xeelee Sequence main novels:

Title Year Published Notes
Raft 1991 Nominated for the 1992 Arthur C. Clarke Award and Locus Award for Best First Novel.[11]
Timelike Infinity 1992
Flux 1993
Ring 1994
Vacuum Diagrams 1997 A collection of short work (see below).
Xeelee: Vengeance[12] 2017
Xeelee: Redemption[13] Scheduled for publication in May 2018.

Destiny's Children sub-series novels:

Title Year Published Notes
Coalescent 2003 Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee, 2004.[14]
Exultant 2004
Transcendent 2005 John W. Campbell Memorial Award nominee, 2006.[15]
Resplendent 2006 A collection of short work (see below).

Collections of short stories and novellas:

Title Year Published Stories Contained (numbers in parentheses indicate the year in which each piece was first separately published) Notes
Vacuum Diagrams 1997
  • "The Sun-People" (1993)
  • "The Logic Pool" (1994)
  • "Gossamer" (1995)
  • "Cilia-of-Gold" (1994)
  • "Lieserl" (1993)
  • "Pilot" (1993)
  • "The Xeelee Flower" (1987)
  • "More Than Time or Distance" (1988)
  • "The Switch" (1990)
  • "Blue Shift" (1989)
  • "The Quagma Datum" (1989)
  • "Planck Zero" (1992)
  • "Eve (The Soliton Star)" (1996)
  • "The Gödel Sunflowers" (1992)
  • "Vacuum Diagrams" (1990)
  • "Stowaway" (1991)
  • "The Tyranny of Heaven" (1990)
  • "Hero" (1995)
  • "Secret History" (1991)
  • "Shell" (1987)
  • "The Eighth Room" (1989)
  • "The Baryonic Lords" (1991)
Philip K. Dick Award winner, 1999.[16]
Resplendent 2006
  • "Cadre Siblings" (2000)
  • "Conurbation 2473" (2003)
  • "Reality Dust" (2000)
  • "Mayflower II" (2004)[a]
  • "All in a Blaze" (2003)
  • "Silver Ghost" (2000)
  • "The Cold Sink" (2001)
  • "On the Orion Line" (2000)
  • "Ghost Wars" (2006)
  • "The Ghost Pit" (2001)
  • "Lakes of Light" (2005)
  • "Breeding Ground" (2003)
  • "The Dreaming Mould" (2002)
  • "The Great Game" (2003)
  • "The Chop Line" (2003)
  • "In the Un-Black" (2001)
  • "Riding the Rock" (2002)
  • "Between Worlds" (2004)
  • "The Siege of Earth" (2006)
Xeelee: Endurance 2015
  • "Return to Titan" (2010)
  • "Starfall" (2009)
  • "Remembrance" (2007)
  • "Endurance" (2015)
  • "The Seer and the Silverman" (2008)
  • "Gravity Dreams" (2011)
  • "PeriAndry’s Quest" (2004)
  • "Climbing the Blue" (2005)
  • "The Time Pit" (2005)
  • "The Lowland Expedition" (2006)
  • "Formidable Caress" (2009)

Currently uncollected stories:

Title and Year Published Source of First Publication Notes
"The Venus Generations" (2016)[18] Bridging Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan.

Chronology and reading order[edit]

The novels in chronological order (as opposed to publication order) are given below. It should be noted that some of the novels contain elements occurring at different points in the timeline. The story anthologies (Vacuum Diagrams, Resplendent, and Xeelee: Endurance) contain stories taking place across the entire chronology.

Title Year Published Year(s) in Story Notes
Coalescent 2003 AD 476-2005 Part 1 of Destiny's Children.
Transcendent 2005 AD 2047 Part 3 of Destiny's Children. The world of Michael Poole Bazalget.
Xeelee: Vengeance 2017 AD 3646-3665
Timelike Infinity 1992 AD 3717 Majority of the plot concerns events that begin here, with later major events occurring in AD 3829 and the AD 5000s. The final chapter takes place mainly in c.AD 5,000,000, with glimpses shown of Timelike Infinity in the immeasurably distant future.
Ring 1994 AD 3951 Before Great Northern launches.
Exultant 2004 AD 24973 Part 2 of Destiny's Children.
Raft 1991 AD 104,858
Flux 1993 c.AD 193,700
Transcendent 2005 c.AD 500,000 Part 3 of Destiny's Children. The world of Alia.
Ring 1994 c.AD 5,000,000 After Great Northern returns.

In 2009, Baxter posted a detailed chronology of the Xeelee Sequence explaining the proper chronological reading order of all the novels, novellas, and short stories up to that year. The timeline was updated in September 2015.[19]

When asked directly for a suggested reading order, the author wrote: "I hope that all the books and indeed the stories can be read stand-alone. I’m not a great fan of books that end with cliff-hangers. So you could go in anywhere. One way would be to start with ‘Vacuum Diagrams’, a collection that sets out the overall story of the universe. Then ‘Timelike Infinity’ and ‘Ring’ which tell the story of Michael Poole, then ‘Raft’ and ‘Flux’ which are really incidents against the wider background, and finally ‘Destiny’s Children.’"[20]


Science fiction author Paul McAuley has praised Baxter and the series, saying:

Baxter doesn’t shrink from tackling the dismayingly inhuman implications of vast abysses of past or future time, but the universality of life introduces perspective, motion and plot into every part of his Stapledonian cosmological framework.

It is great, heady, mind-bending stuff, meticulously mapped onto cutting edge speculations about the birth pangs of the universe and the ultimate fate of all known time and space, constantly enlivened and driven forward by the narratives that its vast range of life generates.

[It represents an] accomplished and imaginative exploration, expansion and reworking of SF’s core themes. His characters contest for living space with a panoply of bizarre aliens in a galaxy crammed with ancient wonders and secret histories; his stories reinvent the baroque excesses of space opera and brace them with imaginative exploration of ideas from stellar zoology, cosmology, quantum theory, exotic mathematics, and much else. Narratives froth with moments of shock and awe, and those sudden reversals of scale that induce the metaphysical dizziness sometimes called sense of wonder. Sentences stride confidently across centuries; paragraphs encompass millennia. Individual voices carry the story forwards, but the story is always bigger than the individuals that are caught up in it.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Abusing the Kardashev Scale for Fun and Profit". TVtropes.org. 
  2. ^ "Flux". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 29 January 2017. 
  3. ^ "Raft". Amazon.com. Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  4. ^ "Coalescent". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 29 January 2017. 
  5. ^ "Orionbooks.co.uk - Xeelee Sequence". Gollancz. Retrieved 22 March 2017. 
  6. ^ "The origin of the Destiny's Children series". stephen-baxter.com. Retrieved 28 August 2016. 
  7. ^ "The Xeelee Sequence – Timeline". stephen-baxter.com. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  8. ^ "Books". stephen-baxter.com. Retrieved 1 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "Orionbooks.co.uk - Xeelee Sequence". Gollancz. Retrieved 29 January 2017. 
  10. ^ "The Origin of the Xeelee Universe". stephen-baxter.com. Retrieved 1 April 2016. 
  11. ^ "1992 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 3 August 2009. 
  12. ^ "Orionbooks.co.uk - Xeelee: Vengeance". Gollancz. Retrieved 29 January 2017. 
  13. ^ "Amazon.co.uk - Xeelee: Redemption". Gollancz. Retrieved 1 June 2017. 
  14. ^ "2004 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 3 August 2009. 
  15. ^ "2006 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 3 August 2009. 
  16. ^ "1999 PKD Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 28 August 2016. 
  17. ^ "BSFA Awards - Previous Award Winners". British Science Fiction Association. Retrieved 28 August 2016. 
  18. ^ "Stephen Baxter on "The Venus Generations"". Coode Street. Retrieved 18 April 2017. 
  19. ^ "The Xeelee Sequence - Timeline". stephen-baxter.com. 
  20. ^ "Fiction Excerpts and Interviews". themanifold.co.uk. 
  21. ^ McAuley, Paul (January 2010). "Introduction". In Baxter, Stephen. Xeelee: An Omnibus. Gollancz. pp. viii–ix. ISBN 978-0575090415. 

External links[edit]