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on 22 November 2017
Stephen Baxter fans will already know the Xeelee universe backwards, so you have to wade through half this novel -- a whole lot of space opera -- until finally you get some new ideas. And that read, though seemingly an effort, since you know everything already, returns a dividend. This trilogy of books (all perfectly stand-alone reads) doesn't deal so much with a war of technology, but of human socialogical evolution. In order to make his point, and to keep the interest of old fans, Baxter has to come up with some new technologies, which he manages to do. Just. This is always the problem with prequels or sequels or re-visits. If we already know what's going to happen, why read it at all? Personally, I read Baxter because he is a decent writer, first and foremost; the sci-fi genre attracts far too many authors with very affected writing styles that actually get in the way of the telling of their tales. With Baxter, you get a page-turning read from beginning to end, whatever the story.
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on 18 June 2014
So here we have a huge leap forward in time from the story of Coalescent. Exultant is mostly stand alone, but you'll benefit from having read Coalescent first.

Baxter has a love of explaining how all of the science in his novels. In Coalescent, Baxter hides his exposition in the form of Peter - essentially Peter is Baxters's voice - who rather self-deprecatingly on Baxter's part, is thought of as a bit of an oddball.
Baxter takes this to the next level in this second book. Unless there's a plot reason preventing it, every character is a physics/planetary body or evolution expert. In short, they are all Peter oddballs. They give long winded explanations of how everything works, what it is that they are seeing etc.. It grates.

If Baxter feels the need to give technical background to his creation, I'd much rather he did it as a narrator. It's so unconvincing to have characters go on and on about how particular aspects of quanta work. More than that, the listener always chimes in with their own elaborations and continues the conversation. Normal people don't do that. Normal people make the phone call, they don't talk about how the voice data is encoded and routed through wireless exchanges until it meets a satellite uplink whereupon the signal may be passed through multiple satellites until it is transmitted to the nearest receiver to the recipient of the call (and so on, and so on....).

We just use our tech because it's there and most people don't know or care how it works. In the future it'll be the same, because after all, we are human (or post-human, or ur-human or what have you).

This gripe aside, Baxter progresses his timeline with much aplomb and it's a very enjoyable, readable ride.
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on 25 May 2014
As far as Sci Fi goes, Baxter's work is thought- provoking and as broad as you like, so unless you're a maths/astrophysics genius your mind will be stretched. This second book is way more convincing than Coalescent (which was pretty poor frankly - I'm surprised the publisher let it happen. It should have been categorised as Historical Fiction...I digress) but when I think about Ring, Raft, Flux and Timelike Infinity I feel I have, in those books, seen a glorious sunset whereas Destiny's Children is like watching one in the cinema. He tries hard and there's loads of tech to assist in the illusion but you know or you feel it's a poor copy or substitute. I've not read anything good about books 3 and 4 so I may not bother
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on 8 October 2014
good read fast delivery
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on 5 January 2005
After finishing Coalescence I couldn't wait to get my teeth into part 2. I wasn't dissapointed!
Although set in a different time and with a whole new set of characters the story is as fast paced as one would expect of Baxter. The different strands of the story weave together to keep the readers interest right until the last page... and I can't wait for Part 3.
For readers new to Baxter, you may want to go back afterwards and read some of his other novels in the 'Xeelee Sequence' - at which point you'll be sitting there thinking "Ah, right! Now that makes sense!"
I give this book a big thumbs up.
4 people found this helpful
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on 28 November 2010
After Coalescent, Exultant was to me something of a disappointment.

Set in the Xeelee universe it is almost a "Xeelee Greatest Hits", with references all over the place to other incidents in the Xeelee sequence. While compelling and interesting in its own way, it's the type of novel Baxter can write standing on his head.

The one innovative feature is a novel that finally takes FTL travel's implications properly - ships that use FTL travel go back in time and so the core of the novel is the fate of a crew who have ended up at base before they left and come across their earlier selves. However, this is not fully or consistently explored - for example on an FTL trip to Earth no other paradoxes occur.

Better-than-average space opera, nice to see more Xeelee material, but fairly routine Baxter.
One person found this helpful
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on 22 June 2006
Exultant has none of the same characters as Coalescent and it does not continue the story either. So in what way exactly is this book a sequel? Well, it's thematic, and the theme is, approximately, the family. In Coalescent Baxter examined a society in which everyone belongs to the same family; now, in Exultant, he looks at a society in which there is no such thing as the family.

And what an unpleasant society it is. Baxter presents us with a hideous centrally-planned dystopia reminiscent of a cross between Stalinism and ancient Egypt, which manufactures billions of human beings ex-utero deliberately for use as cannon fodder in a galactic war that has been going on for so long that the ruling bureaucracy now has a vested interest in not winning it. His protagonists are instances of such human beings: teenage conscripts (that word barely touches the wretchedness of their condition) who have been created to be nothing more than biological components of a vast military machine. Their lives are expendable, utterly worthless, until one of them makes an innovative discovery...

This is space opera on a megalomaniac scale. It's also Baxter's first stab at military sci-fi. The reader inevitably recalls Starship Troopers, but Baxter has rummaged around widely, chucking the Western Front, the Dambusters and even Star Wars into the mix too, and no doubt many others I missed. It works well, and Baxter is certainly not interested in mocking the military virtues that are all his deracinated young heroes have to sustain them. Nor, intriguingly, is he interested in mocking the (illegal) religious beliefs that the conscripts adhere to. Religion is often overlooked by science fiction writers, if not actively derided, but Baxter is prepared the treat the matter seriously; he even has a couple of mischievous (and thought-provoking) points to score in the current `Intelligent Design' debate - although I couldn't find any reference to his intriguing `Lithium anomaly' when I Googled.it. Hmmm.

Exultant is a war story, and its lead characters are soldiers, but I imagine that it is the enemy that will hold the attention of most Baxter fans, for there can be no doubt that the enigmatic Xeelee are a favourite of Baxter's readership. To date they've always been kept off-screen, invisible and unknowable; now, in Exultant, we get a full dissertation on their origins and purposes. It's astonishing, fascinating, mind-bending stuff that proves that Baxter has lost none of his ability to `overwhelm you with traditional sf "sense of wonder" until your jaw drops.' Pure Baxter.
7 people found this helpful
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on 19 October 2004
I'm a big ole Baxter fan, and I usually devour them in one sitting, as I did here. Coalaescent was one of Baxter's better books, which went someway toward untiting the cosmic and the particular. A pretty decent stab at an emotionally developed autobiographical novel combined with some excllent biological speculation and a well-painted re-imagining of Athurian Romano-British history. Baxter fans of old like me could get a frission from his references to his sprawling Xeelee future history.
Witht he second novel, Baxter is in space opera-land, a mileu of ray-guns and starships. And he's obviously revellling in it. It would not be unfair to sya that this book really bridges the uncomplicated 'Star Wars stuff' with the more serious Olaf Stapledon branch of the genre. A lot of the fittings are off-the-shelf - galactic war, child-space-warriors, all-powerful and unknowable aliens, military corruption and incompetence, missions of derringdo, the horror of war, etc. etc. Baxter even works in a pointed critique of Starship Troopers. (In some ways the book resembles the movie, rather than the book.)
The genuinely new elements are brilliant - such as the time-travelling bewildering nature of a faster than light war. It's possible other writers have developed this, but I not aware of it. It also allows Baxter to indulge in one his complex, non-linear plots. However, I still felt the idea was undercooked. More on the human cost of this would have been welcome. I also enjoyed the unreconsructed nature of his cosmic battle - World War I trench warfare, dogfights, flack-batteries and everything. Obviously, he's been watching a lot of war movies... And of course, Star Wars is a rather bald influence. Has 'hard' SF made peace with George Lucas?
It all rollicks along, with Baxter masterfully throwing in the shameless narrative hooks. However, I do feel this novel could have been a lot shorter. How many comittee meetings do we really want to read about? I feel Baxter may have worked on some public-sector IT contracts during his time in industry, methinks, and has some inner rage to vent...
Another frustration is the way Baxter throws stuff away, no doubt more completely realised in his short stories. Some of the science came so thick and fast I found it difficult to keep up. Bear in mind I have a Master's in Astrophysics.
The human interest is underplayed, a shame, as this is a growing strength of Baxter's writing, and marks him out in the field.
Finally, I felt the Xeelee were here an overplayed hand. Baxter always kept his god-aliens chock full of negative capability by keeping them off-stage. The danger for Baxter is that they will become to familiar. The more we know about them and their orgins the less interesting, in a way, they become. Baxter is fundamentally a Romantic thinker despite his scientific bent, and this is for me his magic as a writer, like Arthur Clarke before him.
So, Baxter fans will like it. Everyone else would be better advised to read the one before. Four stars if only cos Baxter on an off-day is still worth reading. But then I'm a geek.
24 people found this helpful
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on 20 February 2005
if i could give this book a negative rating, i would. i loved coalescent, and couldnt wait to start the sequel. but....
the characters are cardboard. you dont really care about them. the plot is pointless. and there is simply no way this book can be regarded as a sequel, as there is nothing in it that relates to the first destinies children book. although to be fair, i stopped reading after the first two hundred pages, and just skipped to the end to find out if they did win or not. so maybe there was something there. who knows, i certainly dont care enough to find out. am annoyed enough that i wasted hours of my life reading this.
having said all these negative things, i am a big fan of stephen baxters other books. moonseed, and coalescent to name two. i think he is an excellent writer who normally keeps the plot exciting. who know what happened here.
6 people found this helpful
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