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Literature / Manifold: Origin

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In the year 2015, a red moon appears in the Earth’s orbit: brooding, multitextured, beautiful and alive. Catastrophe follows. While coastlands flood by the new gravitational forces, millions of people die. Scientists scramble desperately to understand what is on the big red moon and how it got there. And NASA astronaut Reid Malenfant, and his wife Emma, are hurtling through the African sky in a training jet, when everything changes forever.

For Malenfant and Emma, a reckless flight in a T-38 above the sun-baked continent sends them colliding with a great wheel in the sky. Now Emma has awakened in a strange, Earthlike world, among physically powerful, primitive creatures who share humankind’s features and desires but lack the human mind. And Reid Malenfant is back in Texas, reliving the plane crash, looking up at the red moon, and knowing in his heart that Emma is there.

Emma is there, beginning a journey of survival that is both horrific and fascinating, utterly familiar and totally beyond comprehension. Malenfant, teamed with a Japanese scientist named Nemoto, will get his chance to rescue his wife. But neither can foresee the extraordinary adventures that await them. Neither can imagine the small and immense evolutionary secrets cloaked in the atmosphere of the red moon, or guess at how a vast, living, tightly woven cosmos has shaped our planet as we know it–and how it will shape it again.

The final book of Stephen Baxter's Manifold trilogy, preceded by Manifold: Time and Manifold: Space.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Absent Aliens: Humans are the only intelligent species in this universe, but the book is set in a multiverse where each individual universe contains an intelligent species.
  • Alternate Continuity: To the other books in the Manifold series.
  • Art Shift: The sections told from the POV of the Runners are composed of extremely short sentence fragments.
  • Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: After remaking the universe at the end of Manifold: Time, the Downstreamers ascended to an even new, greater form. Any weaknesses they might have had in their neutrino state were removed, as obviously that substrate was wiped out yet they still survived, becoming disembodied, acausal, infinite-universe viewing gods.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Praisegod Michael is an egomaniac who seeks to become a planetary conqueror that brings the word of God to the 'subhumans' of the Red Moon, but he can't achieve anything worthwhile without the aid of his Daemon advisor Renemenagota, and his downfall comes from the Neanderthal boy whom he keeps as a sex slave.
  • Bigger on the Inside: There's a chamber in the middle of the Red Moon too large to fit inside it (at least not without severely diminishing its gravity), indicating it's a type of transdimensional engineering.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: The Elf-folk Shadow is raped by her own brother Claw.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": On the Red Moon we have such things as 'Runners' (Homo erectus), 'Elf-folk' (some species of Australopithecus or Ardipithecus), 'Nutcracker-folk' (Paranthropus boisei) and 'Hams' (Neanderthals), though it’s possible that Baxter intends the Elves and Nutcracker-men to be species that never lived on Earth.
  • City Planet: Each Daemon farm extends from the core of the planet to the sky. These farms cover the entire surface of the planet, showing the Daemons’ mastery of genetic and ecological engineering.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: One common method of killing prey by the Elf-folk involves grabbing the prey, pulling the limbs off, then eating them when they are still alive and after they die. It's not hugely extended torture, which they have neither the infrastructure nor patience for, but there does seem to be a slight extension in the period of suffering beyond the desire to consume the flesh.
    After that — as Emma watched, frozen in place by her fear of detection — the boy was steadily dismembered: the drinking of blood, the biting-off of genitals, the startlingly efficient twisting-off of an arm. And through all of this the boy was still alive, still screaming...
  • Distant Finale: The short story Grey Earth (printed in the collection Phase Space), which takes place many decades after the end of Origin, and tells about Nemoto's final years living with Mary and the rest of the Neanderthals on the Grey Earth, after they had been returned there in the epilogue of the novel.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Praisegod Michael is ultimately killed by his Neanderthal sex slave.
  • Dumb Is Good: The herbivorous Nutcracker-folk, the least intelligent and the most content, pacific, unthreatened of the hominins on the Red Moon.
  • Driven to Suicide: Hugh McCann mentions that one of his men gave himself to the Elf-folk once he learnt that he cannot go home again.
  • Facial Horror: Shadow, towards the end of the story, because of the fungal growths that disfigure her face.
  • Fantastic Naming Convention: Each Daemon's name consists of one syllable more than her mother's name, two more than her grandmother's, one added for each generation of the lineage, back from the beginning.
  • Going Native: The last time Emma sees him, Maxie, a modern human boy stranded on the Red Moon, comes to live with the Runners as one of them, and becomes all but assimilated by the end of the book.
  • Healing Factor: Genetically engineered Workers in their bodies let the Daemons heal themselves very quickly.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Near the end of the book, Shadow gleefully has her tribe slaughter and eat the fellow Elves of her tribe of birth.
  • Improvised Weapon: Renemenagota is killed by a targeted application of the Air Wall technology. This is just a use of a tool, not a dedicated weapon, as the Daemons have had no wars for a million years.
  • Made a Slave: Towards outsiders, the Zealots practice slavery under close monitoring and coercion, with no real boons granted except being allowed to survive.
  • Modern Stasis: Daemon society is advanced but fairly inward looking and stagnant. One individual can singlehandedly design a space program to go to the moon, but apparently they'd never bothered to do this before strange events happened.
  • Mood-Swinger: Praisegod Michael is able to swing from affable politeness to temper tantrum within seconds for no real reason.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: When several of the peaceful Daemons go off planet and interacted with more primitive and savage species, Renemenagota goes completely off the bend, embracing violence for its own sake, and planning an ambitious coup over her species, though she was foiled.
  • No-Dialogue Episode: Shadow's narrative is completely free of dialogue, as it is implied the Elves don't actually have a spoken language.
  • Our Elves Are Different: The 'Elf-folk' (which resemble australopithecines) of the Red Moon are only three feet high, with faces like apes, but they walk upright and have feet like humans. Their preferred food is other hominids and they often eat the meat directly from the still-living prey in an excessively brutal way. The story of Shadow, the Elf protagonist, in particular is a calvary of pain, featuring rape, infanticide, murder, cannibalism, injury, disease, and madness. It seems Baxter has based his ‘Elf’ behaviour on the worst aspects of the common chimpanzee.
  • Overly Long Name: Manekatopokanemahedo's full name consists of nearly fifty thousand syllables, one added for every generation.
  • Pedophile Priest: It is implied that Praisegod Michael's Neanderthal boy companion is also his bed warmer.
  • Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: The Neanderthals on the Red Moon all have Biblical names, which they adopted from the Puritan-like Zealots.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Greg Mayer, killed unceremoniously by a Runner near the beginning of the book, whose death emphasises on the raw, brutal life on the Red Moon.
  • Sapient Eat Sapient: The preferred prey of the Elf-folk are other hominins, although most hominin species on the Red Moon (except Homo sapiens and the herbivorous Nutcracker-folk) eat each other in various degrees of frequency.
  • Stock Animal Diet: When the advanced hominid "Daemons" (who resemble gorillas) want to reward the human scientist Nemoto, they try offering her a banana. She is understandably insulted.
  • A Taste of the Lash: The Zealots make extensive of whipping to break their Runner and Ham slaves.
  • Teleportation: The Daemon teleportation process, known as 'Mapping'.
    When she was Mapped to the Market – when the information that comprised her had been squeezed through cracks in the quantum foam that underlay all space and time – she was no longer, quite, herself, and that disturbed her greatly. Manekato was used to Mapping. The Farm was large enough that walking, or transport by Workers, was not always rapid enough. But Mappings covering such a short distance were brief and isomorphic: she felt the same coming out of the destination station as entering it (just as, of course, principles of the identity of indiscernible objects predicted she should).
  • The Theocracy: The Zealots are organised around domination by a lunatic who believes he's God's sole representative. He demands submission to his personal authority and exclusive dogma, backed by threat of direct physical force.
  • Weird Moon: The book starts with the replacement of our familiar moon with a new one, much larger, and with life on it. The result of replacing our little dead moon with the bigger live Red Moon is, among other things, new and much larger tides which devastate many coastal areas all over the world.
  • We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: Cancer is apparently curable via a regiment of pills, similar to taking a round of antibiotics.
  • Where I Was Born and Razed: Near the end of the story, Shadow, after being ostracised from her tribe of birth, leads another tribe to slaughter everyone.
  • Xenofiction: Some sections told from the POV of non-human hominids might count.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Despite being able to make one jump with the World Engine, the Daemons still can't comprehend it, like how the Neanderthals couldn't understand or see clearly the existence of a NASA spaceship, and how Malenfant couldn't understand or see clearly the patterns from the Daemons' Mapping. The Daemons themselves have the same problem with this trinket of Old One technology.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: The fate of Hugh McCann's expedition team to the Red Moon, after it left their home universe. And later of Emma, Malenfant, Nemoto and Manekato's group, after the Red Moon leaves their universes as well.
  • You No Take Candle: Runners can speak some English, but the grammar is still broken. The Daemons (no relation) hear something similar when humans try to speak their language, though it's poorly represented since Most Writers Are Human.