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Coalescent: Destiny's Children Book One: Homo Superior (GOLLANCZ S.F.) [Paperback]

Stephen Baxter
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
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Book Description

10 Jun 2004 GOLLANCZ S.F.
The first in a new trilogy that will chart different evolutionary futures for mankind, COALESCENT is the story of a divergent strain of humanity; a hive mind, that subsumes the individual. It is a story that begins with a vivid depiction of the decline of the Roman Empire and which, down through the years, shows how one woman's determination to protect her daughter has such frightening consequences for mankind's future existence. This is at once a stunning historical novel, a superb piece of ideas-driven SF and the intensely felt story of one man's discovery of the dark secret at the heart of his family.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (10 Jun 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575075538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575075535
  • Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 241,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Baxter is the pre-eminent SF writer of his generation. Published around the world he has also won major awards in the UK, US, Germany, and Japan. Born in 1957 he has degrees from Cambridge and Southampton. He lives in Northumberland with his wife.

Here are the Destiny's Children novels in series order:


Time's Tapestry novels in series order:

Navigator Weaver

Flood novels:


Time Odyssey series (with Arthur C Clarke):

Time's Eye

Manifold series:

Phase Space

Mammoth series:

Mammoth (aka Silverhair)
Long Tusk
Ice Bones

NASA trilogy:


Xeelee sequence:

Timelike Infinity
Vacuum Diagrams (linked short stories)
The Xeelee Omnibus (Raft, Timelike Infinity, Flux, Ring)

The Web series for Young Adults:


Coming in 2010:

Stone Spring - book one of the Northland series

Product Description

Amazon Review

Stephen Baxter's novel Coalescent explores the SF possibilities of our own evolution--and whether, like ants or naked mole rats, a human community could develop a hive mind.

In modern England, George Poole learns in mid-life that he once had a twin sister, given as an infant to The Puissant Order of Holy Mary Queen of Virgins. The what? Poole tracks down what seems a perfectly respectable Rome-based organisation, not all that religious but with hints of underlying strangeness. Yet apparently they're not strangers. "They're family."

Sixteen centuries before, the Roman-British girl Regina lives through the final, painful passing of Roman law and order in a Britain increasingly ravaged by Saxon invasion. It's a grimly moving historical story, which even links to the legend of Arthur.

Hardened by much brutal experience, Regina is determined to protect her bloodline and her household gods through the Dark Ages, until this temporary disturbance is over. By luck, cunning and sheer ruthlessness she reaches sanctuary in Rome, where she founds an enclave that will survive into the modern era and beyond. Instinctively, Regina lays down rules that will fundamentally change "human nature" as the centuries slip by:

Ignorance is strength. Listen to your sisters. Sisters matter more than laughters.

A third narrative strand follows Lucia, a girl of the modern-day Order who sees these slogans on every wall, lives underground in the artificial light of the "Crypt" and is always surrounded by many sisters. No room is ever empty. When Lucia finds herself physically changing and becoming different from her workmates, the resulting upheaval has ripples that affect Poole, his own rediscovered sister and the world.

The lifestyle of the Order is a new quirk in mankind's evolution, alternately seductive and shocking. Baxter switches effectively between harrowing historical narrative and the slow revelation of a threat whose understated chill is reminiscent of John Wyndham's quieter menaces. Coalescent is a strong, standalone novel that opens a new SF sequence titled "Destiny's Children". --David Langford --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


INTERVIEWS DreamwatchOpen Book BBC Radio4, 12 October, Baxter will be interviewed by Mariella Frostrup and will then stick around to be their SF Specialist. REVIEWS 'This is the intelligent Mr Baxter at his most subtly inventive'TIME OUT 'The word epic does not do justice to the vision of this extremely impressive novel'DREAMWATCH Reviews expected in The Times, The Guardian and SFX. SIGNING Wednesday 22nd October, Andromeda, Birmingham --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It doesn't really coalesce 24 July 2004
By Russell
Coalescent is fascinating and flawed at the same time. And the flaw is not in the characterisation. These are rounded, interesting people. Not heroes, not perfect, not always nice, but very human (ironically, given the book's theme).
The charting of the slow and painful collapse of the roman empire in Dark Ages Britain and Europe is fascinating and evocative. The Arthurian connection is fun - a playful dig at the myth - and I like the way Ambrosius gets the upper hand.
The fatal flaw, for me, is in the structure. Baxter is running two timelines for most of the book, separated by centuries. However the present day timeline provides all the answers to the historical timeline early in the book, eliminating any possible tension. The historical timeline peters out three quarters of the way through (probably for this reason). The modern timeline swaps viewpoint several times.
Then, finally, for some bizarre reason, the author introduces a third timeline, set thousands of years in the future, right at the end of the book. You have no opportunity to get to know the characters or the setting but it distracts attention enormously from the climax, totally severing my connection with the story. A huge mistake and totally unnecessary.
The style of writing in Coalescent is fluid and assured. The basic idea is not startlingly original but is interesting and is explored proficiently - without the old sci-fi stand by of the information dump. In a way, this philosophical exploration - of the relationship between evolution and forms of social organisation (hive versus individuality) - stands in place of a more dramatic plot.
In summary: good exploration of an intriguing idea; vivid historical background; rounded characters; well written; intellectually stimulating rather than suspenseful. Disastrous structure.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Scary 1 April 2005
By Corsair
Stephen Baxter is the leading contemporary science fiction writer and the equal of any of the past greats of the genre: he can pack more Big Ideas into a single novel than some SF writers manage in a whole career, and even his turkeys - Moonseed and The Light of Other Days, say - still manage to pass muster in a genre that is, in the words of Nick Lowe, 'absolutely addicted to crappiness'.
In Coalescent we follow the adventures of one George Poole, a middle-aged IT professional who, while finalising his late father's estate, discovers that he has a long-lost twin sister. This girl, Rosa, was sent away as a child to join a religious order in Rome, and Poole, in mid-life crisis mode, determines to track her down. Meanwhile, in a parallel story, Poole's remote ancestress, a Romano-Briton of the 5th Century, escapes the anarchy of Sub-Roman Britannia, travels to Rome and founds a religious order...
Is this science-fiction? Well, yes, it is, when written by Baxter. Poole's investigation into the very weird indeed Puissant Order of Saint Mary Queen of Virgins allows the author to address some favourite themes: political and social decadence, the Fermi Paradox, privacy (the lack thereof), evolution, humans-as-aliens and, of course, Cosmic Destiny. We also get a fascinating and scary new Baxter theme, eusociality (don't look it up, you'll spoil the story). plus an insight that may be very disturbing to internet users!
What we don't get is the Baxterian Cosmic Angst that had become a depressing feature of his stories. Coalescent has, to my mind, a hopeful ending. It also has well-drawn characters, although they're not particularly likable ones.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
If you're reading Baxter's Xeelee novels and stories in full 'reading order' chronology (see Baxter's website for the full list at 2009), then this is the first book you'll encounter. Be warned, though - it could be enough to put you off the whole series before you even start. About half of the book is a historical novel set in the early Dark Ages. I found the first 40 pages slow, dull, and the characters unsympathetic. Then I hit the Dark Ages, and I gave up. Sorry, Mr. Baxter, but slogging through 300 pages of Ancient Romans and Saxons was not the way I wanted to start the Xeelee time-line. So I decided to read the plot on Wikipedia (there's a detailed summary), and then skim-read the slog of the Roman / Dark Ages / Historical / Lucia sections. I still gained a good idea of the plot, and managed to pick up all the interesting ideas and the few references that make this book relevant to the Xeelee series. But then I found I was reading the final quarter of the book properly, and I found it gripping. The ideas certainly lingered. After finishing it I did a bit of research to try to determine exactly how much it ties in to the Xeelee series. It's only tied in through short sections and passing mentions, so far as I can tell: an alien artefact has been detected beyond Pluto; there's a possible detection of a 'photino bird' as it passes through the Earth; there are hints that the universe may be at war; George Poole is apparently an ancestor of a significant character later in the time-line; Poole meets his young nephew Michael Poole who narrates the next book in 2027 - Transcendent - that you'll read in the Xeelee sequence; and human hive societies are mentioned in some future books and stories.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing subtext
I bought this book a few years ago because I like hard scifi, and I thought I should try to read more contemporary scifi novels, rather than older novels and short stories. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Skittle
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting idea
The emergence over many centuries of an alternative branch of human evolution. The story describes two separate strands of time, the current one and one starting at the fall of the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Tracy
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Great ideas but the book just felt a bit slackly written. I also found all but one of the characters completely obnoxious.
Published 5 months ago by Jonathan F. Brown
3.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed it, but it didn't grab me.
I was going to write a long review, but most of my predecessors have covered the salient points admirably. Read more
Published on 28 Sep 2011 by Susan
1.0 out of 5 stars Skip to page 511
Because that's the only section of science fiction in this book.

I understand that Stephen Baxter was trying to build some kind of evolutionary
slant into his... Read more
Published on 5 April 2011 by Xandir. P. Wifflebottom
5.0 out of 5 stars Baxter's coming of age as an author
I've long been a fan of Baxter as a good hard-SF writer. Coalescent takes him a stage further - this is a genre-crossing, very human novel that marks his arrival as a good general... Read more
Published on 28 Nov 2010 by Malcolm Street
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than expected
This book has been on my shelf for ages, possibly even years, I'd been put off by the thickness, the fact it said book 1 and the disappointment of Baxter's collaboration with... Read more
Published on 6 Nov 2009 by Sulkyblue
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent thought provoking Sci Fi
A very interesting, thought provoking book about the possible evolutionary pathways mankind could take (or, in this case, has already taken). Read more
Published on 24 May 2008 by Adam Watson
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Sci-Fi
Difficult to get into at the beginning and very drab, but once I got into the story it became more interesting. By the end, which was very exciting, I was sucked in. Read more
Published on 2 Jan 2008 by J. M. Wright
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable read
This book frustrated me slightly to begin as it did take a long time to get into, but once I got past the first 80 pages or so I was
engrossed. Read more
Published on 18 Nov 2007 by LostShepherd
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