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Coalescent: Destiny's Children Book One: Homo Superior (GOLLANCZ S.F.) Paperback – 10 Jun 2004

3.2 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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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: 11.1 x 2.8 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 467,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

PRAISE FOR STEPHEN BAXTER
"Evolution
"GRIPPING . . . THE PERFECT SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE OF OUR TIME . . . The miracle of "Evolution is that it makes the triumph of life, which is its story, sound like the real story."
-"The Washington Post Book World
""EVOLUTION IS A WORK OF OUTRAGEOUS AMBITION. . . . What is astonishing is how successfully he brings to life a wide range of facts and conjectures, and how entertaining as well as informative this book-an episodic novel with evolution as its protagonist-manages to be."
-"The New York Times Book Review
"Manifold: Time
"A STAGGERING NOVEL! If you ever thought you understood time, you'll be quickly disillusioned when you read "Manifold: Time."
-SIR ARTHUR C. CLARKE
"Manifold: Space
"BREATHTAKING IN ITS ORIGINALITY AND SCOPE . . . [AN] IMPRESSIVE PARADE OF WONDERS."
"-The Washington Post
"Manifold: Origin
"UTTERLY ENGROSSING . . . A book that challenges and provokes . . . "Origin leads you to ask questions about sentience and existence."
"-SFX magazine"


PRAISE FOR STEPHEN BAXTER
"Evolution
"GRIPPING . . . THE PERFECT SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE OF OUR TIME . . . The miracle of "Evolution is that it makes the triumph of life, which is its story, sound like the real story."
-"The Washington Post Book World
""EVOLUTION IS A WORK OF OUTRAGEOUS AMBITION. . . . What is astonishing is how successfully he brings to life a wide range of facts and conjectures, and how entertaining as well as informative this book-an episodic novel with evolution as its protagonist-manages to be."
-"The New York Times Book Review
"Manifold: Time
"A STAGGERING NOVEL! If you ever thought you understood time, you'll be quickly disillusioned when you read "Manifold: Time."
-SIR ARTHUR C. CLARKE
"Manifold: Space
"BREATHTAKING IN ITS ORIGINALITY AND SCOPE . . . [AN] IMPRESSIVE PARADE OF WONDERS."
"-The Washington Post
"Manifold: Origin
"UTTERLY ENGROSSING . . . A book that challenges and provokes . . . "Origin leads you to ask questions about sentience and existence."
"-SFX magazine"

"From the Hardcover edition.

PRAISE FOR STEPHEN BAXTER
"Evolution
""GRIPPING . . . THE PERFECT SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE OF OUR TIME . . . The miracle of "Evolution" is that it makes the triumph of life, which is its story, sound like the real story."
-"The Washington Post Book World"
""EVOLUTION" IS A WORK OF OUTRAGEOUS AMBITION. . . . What is astonishing is how successfully he brings to life a wide range of facts and conjectures, and how entertaining as well as informative this book-an episodic novel with evolution as its protagonist-manages to be."
-"The New York Times Book Review"
"Manifold: Time
""A STAGGERING NOVEL! If you ever thought you understood time, you'll be quickly disillusioned when you read "Manifold: Time,""
-SIR ARTHUR C. CLARKE
"Manifold: Space"
"BREATHTAKING IN ITS ORIGINALITY AND SCOPE . . . [AN] IMPRESSIVE PARADE OF WONDERS."
"-The Washington Post
"
"Manifold: Origin
""UTTERLY ENGROSSING . . . A book that challenges and provokes . . . "Origin" leads you to ask questions about sentience and existence."
"-SFX "magazine"
"

"From the Hardcover edition."

PRAISE FOR STEPHEN BAXTER

"Evolution
""GRIPPING . . . THE PERFECT SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE OF OUR TIME . . . The miracle of "Evolution" is that it makes the triumph of life, which is its story, sound like the real story."
-"The Washington Post Book World"

""EVOLUTION" IS A WORK OF OUTRAGEOUS AMBITION. . . . What is astonishing is how successfully he brings to life a wide range of facts and conjectures, and how entertaining as well as informative this book-an episodic novel with evolution as its protagonist-manages to be."
-"The New York Times Book Review"

"Manifold: Time
""A STAGGERING NOVEL! If you ever thought you understood time, you'll be quickly disillusioned when you read "Manifold: Time"."
-SIR ARTHUR C. CLARKE

"Manifold: Space"
"BREATHTAKING IN ITS ORIGINALITY AND SCOPE . . . [AN] IMPRESSIVE PARADE OF WONDERS."
"-The Washington Post
"
"Manifold: Origin
""UTTERLY ENGROSSING . . . A book that challenges and provokes . . . "Origin" leads you to ask questions about sentience and existence."
"-SFX "magazine"
"


"From the Hardcover edition."

PRAISE FOR STEPHEN BAXTER

Evolution
"GRIPPING . . . THE PERFECT SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE OF OUR TIME . . . The miracle of Evolution is that it makes the triumph of life, which is its story, sound like the real story."
-The Washington Post Book World
"EVOLUTION IS A WORK OF OUTRAGEOUS AMBITION. . . . What is astonishing is how successfully he brings to life a wide range of facts and conjectures, and how entertaining as well as informative this book-an episodic novel with evolution as its protagonist-manages to be."
-The New York Times Book Review

Manifold: Time
"A STAGGERING NOVEL! If you ever thought you understood time, you'll be quickly disillusioned when you read Manifold: Time."
-SIR ARTHUR C. CLARKE
Manifold: Space
"BREATHTAKING IN ITS ORIGINALITY AND SCOPE . . . [AN] IMPRESSIVE PARADE OF WONDERS."
-The Washington Post

Manifold: Origin
"UTTERLY ENGROSSING . . . A book that challenges and provokes . . . Origin leads you to ask questions about sentience and existence."
-SFX magazine

From the Hardcover edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

See all Product description

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
Coalescent
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.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Some of the reviews above are a bit harsh. I read the book quickly, over a few days, because it has an interesting and fast-moving narrative. I put it down reluctantly, but not extremely reluctantly. The ancient Britain side is very well done indeed, perhaps the most plausible and interesting story I have seen of the fall of the Roman empire in Britain. But the modern side is less convincing. The author didn't convince me that the hive was a bad thing, and he should have been able to do so. It was difficult to sympathise with any of the modern characters.
The bizarre chapter at the end set thousands of years in the future was surprising. Is the author setting the scene for a sequel? That's how it reads. And is press-ganging likely to be an efficient way of manning deep-space battle fleets of the future? It strikes me as unlikely.
One of the interesting points in this book is the theme, also explored in the Absolution Gap/Redemption Space series, that the galaxy is a dangerous place and we should not be broadcasting our presence. This is a key theme for future sci-fi.
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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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