Sci-fi confession: I was not entirely swept away by Olaf Stapledon’s classic work, Last and First Men, which seemed several billion years too long. However, I have a warmer response to Stephen Baxter’s Last and First Contacts, a collection of recent short stories combined with a few brand new tales. I have read a number of Baxter’s full length novels but I think I prefer his efforts at shorter forms, where numerous ideas can burst forth without the reader having to work through them in intricate but sometimes gruelling detail.
Like the Stapledon classic his title nods toward, many of the stories reach into the far flung future; most of them feature world’s ending, the human race being extinguished and the universe rolling on (although even the matter of time and space comes a cropper in a couple of the tales). There is a good deal of variety though, including alternative history and another one that acts as a perspective on solipsism. Overall, I think it is an excellent example of what a sci-fi anthology can be, so/5.