, Stephen Baxter explores deep time to dramatise the story of Earth's evolving primates--from tiny shrew-like creatures dodging reptilian predators in the Cretaceous era, to humans of the 21st century and beyond.
The long drama starts with a bang: the Chicxlub meteor impact 65 million years ago--the dinosaur killer--bringing a holocaust of extinctions. Baxter describes that apocalyptic strike and aftermath in lurid, compelling detail.
By now the crater was a glowing bowl of shining, boiling impact melt, wide enough to have engulfed the Los Angeles area from Santa Barbara to Long Beach. And its depth was four times the height of Everest, its lip further above its floor than the tracks of supersonic planes above Earth's surface.
This book's hero is evolution itself, shaping surviving pre-humans into tree dwellers, remoulding a group that drifts from Africa to a (then closer) New World on a raft of debris, confronting others with a terrible dead end as ice clamps down on Antarctica. Elsewhere the river of DNA runs on, and ape-like creatures in North Africa are forced out of dwindling forests to stumble across grasslands where their distant descendants will joyously run.
Although the episodes resonate with one another, each is a separate triumph or tragedy whose early protagonists are uncomprehending animals ("He knew on a deep cellular level that..."). Darwin's imperatives force their successors to grapple with self-awareness, consciousness, memory, abstract thought. Tools emerge, and art, and language. One troubled genius of 60,000 years ago is seen inventing a theory of magic in hope of understanding and controlling the environment--and her contemporaries. Her reward is to become "the first person in all human history to have a name."
The story continues, and the apparent framing narrative--about a last-ditch global conference hoping to solve the ecological nightmares of 2031--is not the end. Baxter's final snapshot is 500 million years in our future....
Enormously ambitious in scope, Evolution shows the whole sweep and precariousness of pre-human and human development. We are so lucky to be here--although, as Baxter makes it clear, the luck may be running out. --David Langford
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Here's what The Times had to say about Evolution: 'One of the greatest mythsof all must be the origin of the human species itself. Stephen Baxter chronicles the epic survival of the mammalian family that ultimately ends up with us, in Evolution. The sheer timescale makes a great story that is panoramic inextent. I felt I was watching Walking with Beasts rolled into The Human Journey. Baxter's ability to turn science into exciting readable fiction - something my physics teacher should have tried - makes him one of the most accessible SF writers around.' 'A powerful fusion of science and imagination. Baxter makes an impressive job of putting flesh on the bones of scientific theory and in its imaginative vision Evolution deserves comparison with such SF epics as Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men. BAxter leaves you with a memorable yet unsettling sense of our insignificance in the scheme of things. In the story of evolution, as in all good thriller, an extinction event is always lurking just around the corner.'THE GUARDIAN 'Strong imagination, a capacity for awe, and the ability to think rigorously about nasty and vinal things abound inthe work of Stephen BAxter. HIs new novel is about time but its vision of our future is shockingly different and very convincing. Evolution mixes inventiveness with a truly Wellsian (and Stapledonian) vision - and it leaves the reader with a haunting portrayal of the distant future.'TLS Excellent reviews have also appeared in:The GuardianFocusSFXStarburstThe Alien On LineSF Revu Reviews are due in:SFSiteLocusInterzone Stephen has also been appearing on the odd local radio station:BBC Radio Leicester (x3)BBC Radio Southern CountiesBBC Radio Three CountiesBBC Radio Sheffield Stephen will be doing a joint signing and talk with M. John Harrison at the new Borders store in Leicester. Steph
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