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VINE VOICEon 29 November 2007
The opening dedication to Arthur C Clarke - a previous co-author with Baxter - is the clue: this is a re-casting of Clarke's classic 'Childhood's End', though on an infinitely bigger scale and capturing the terrifying immensity of a future gestalt of humanity. Kerellen, guide to the final generation of mankind in 'End', becomes Reath, destined never to experience Transcendence himself.

The second plot line, taking the story of the Poole family forward in the mid twenty-first century, alternates with the first in a way familiar in the other volumes in the series: it is less satisfactory and leaves a lot unexplained - what is obviously a catastrophic drop in population (cause -we are told, a lower birth rate in N America and Europe - what was happening in the Third World)?

I agree with the other reviewers who see this book as a marked drop in standard from Vols 1 (the best - and a rivetting story) and 2.
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on 28 November 2010
Transcendent is a novel of massive ambition that only partly comes off. We have another narrative split between two times, this time spanning a "mere" 500,000 years, one a future human and her family in a generation ship, and a present day narrative with yet another Poole (Michael, nephew of George from Coalescent) initiating a massive geo-engineering project to combat global warming.

Future figure (Alia) gets called into a project/entity called the Transcendence, which is nothing less than an attempt to produce a coordinated super-mind that will take evolution beyond humanity all together, and in the middle of this she maintains an interest in Michael Poole that grows to be the heart of the novel's resolution. The Transcendence sounds a lot like the sort of awakening of a group mind listed in Olaf Stapleton's classic "Last and First Men" and Baxter has noted his admiration for Stapleton. There are also echoes of Frank Tipler's ideas explored in "The Physics of Immortality" of future humans trying to redeem those in the past.

Just as Arthur C Clarke's novels are heavily Buddhist influenced, Baxter's lean heavily on his childhood Roman Catholicism, hence his obsession with martyrs, saviours, resurrections, a pessimistic view of human nature and even bodily functions. This is his most explicitly Catholic novel yet; indeed redemption (with a capital R) and its means and significance is a major theme of it. Rosa from Coalescent makes a reappearance, this time as a (female!) Catholic priest, almost as a means for data-dumps on obscure (but relevant) Catholic doctrine and ritual.

The novel can be slow, Michael Poole is even more of a self-pitying annoyance than his uncle George in Coalescent, slabs of philosophical and theological thought are dumped straight at you and characters can be ciphers. But if the novel's a partial failure, it's a failure of over-ambition. It's far from perfect, but I've read few SF novels that have dealt with such lofty themes and asked such fundamental questions.

(Mild spoiler). There is a thread linking all three Destiny's Child novels (apart from the appearance of Coalescent human colonies in each) - all feature a new type of human society where the individual is a cog in the whole. The Coalescent in Coalescent, the society of child warriors at perpetual war in Exultant and the Transcendence are all ultimately dead ends. If there's a message of the series, it's that we're left with our flawed individuality as the least worst option. (end spoiler)
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on 1 May 2006
It is no use trying to read this book on its own. It is absolutely imperative that the previous two novels in the Destiny's Children sequence are read first for it to make its correct impact. As you progress through the books it may at first feel that they have no connection with each other, but subtly and very cleverly the logic of the plot is revealed. This is what Science Fiction should be. The writing is masterly and Baxter's command of language is impressive. But these novels are no mere shoot-em-up as some reviewers seem to want. The intricacies of the plot, and its sheer scale are breathtaking in their vision and imagination, and nowhere else have I read anything which can compare with this for such a graphic description of the galaxy and its place in the universe.
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on 25 March 2014
I've read and enjoyed many of Stephen Baxters books but this one is just a struggle.

Shallow, self centred, badly written characters including depressive Michael Moore, his immature son Tom (you just want to punch this character and tell him to stop being such a child), the Trancendence who wallow in humanities past and a young girl, Alia who seems to be a teenager-going-on-65 and suddenly for no discernable reason acquires telepathic powers.

I'm now 75% through the book, I don't expect it to get any better and I would quite happily delete the book if I hadn't paid for it.

Please let this be the only bad egg in the basket.
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on 13 April 2006
I thoroughly enjoyed 'Exultant'-book 2 in the series, and went straight into 'Transcendent'. Transcendent's story is a slow plod with dull descriptions of Michael Poole's life alternated with a character from the far distant future who bored me- I gave up halfway through and had already skimmed through chunks of it. It gave the impression of being written just to fulfill a contract! I am normally a big fan of Mr. Baxter and have read most of his other work,...so, Stephen, you can do much better than this!!
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on 9 September 2006
I suppose it only made sense, after reading the previous two books, for Baxter to have wound up here. I mean, after Exultant, what was really left? I was hoping he would have tied things together, and continued the story. Instead, we fast forward from "now" to 500,000 years from now (whereas Exultant was 25,000 years from today, and coalescent was -1,500 years from today). Like the other two books, we have two plot threads. The nearer takes place in the near term future, in a somewhat contrived description of a pre-global-warming-apocalypse earth, with Yet Another Damn Poole taking the lead role (a bit like his Reid Malenfant in the Manifold series, which I grew to detest).

The other thread is what most irritated me. While I appreciated his grand tour of the possibilities of human evolution, I was put off by his wide-eyed speculation and what-if's. Many of the things he describes are fundamentally plausible, in the way that drag racing possibilities can be speculated on paper. But they ring hollow. Sure, you can described silicon-based life, but is it plausible? And the humans-made-dolphins (again, from Manifold) show up again, being equally silly this time around.

But, that's not really the worst of the book. Towards the end, the book lapses into navel-gazing, much in the way Hideaki Anno's Neon Genesis Evangelion does in the later part of the series. Sadly, it's just as hard to wrap your head around. The philosophical meandering doesn't make much sense, and seems to have very little to do with the previous books, or indeed the rest of the Xeelee Sequence. Certainly it's a departure from Ring, which was frankly an impressive epic set in the same sequence. But, really, what choice did he have by setting the environment half a million years from now?

The "contemporary" thread (set in the 2050's) is... "interesting," but also seems to borrow from the Malenfant stick figure he has developed elsewhere (and indeed the Peter character from Coalescent re-appears in this book with a different name, but the same physical description, neuroses, and agenda), as well as the notions in John Brunner's The Sheep Look Up. Sure, it made sense in Brunner's take on things, but we've _read_ that already. There's no sense in an educated engineer getting all misty eyed about global warming in a book set half a million years in the future.

So, sadly, the last book (although a fourth book, with short stories from the rest of the Coalescent books, has just been published) finishes the series by wobbling between "why am I reading this" and "this is just entirely silly."

Exultant is worth a read, but could probably be thrown into the Xeelee Sequence and read alongside Ring. Coalescent and Transcendant, I could do without.
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on 8 October 2014
good read fast delivery
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on 2 June 2014
I loved this book from start to finish. As usual Baxter creates a story crossing millennia filled with all sorts of strange life forms.

A definite must read.
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