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Exultant: Destiny's Children Book 2 (GOLLANCZ S.F.) Paperback – 8 Sep 2005

3.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (8 Sept. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575076550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575076556
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 3 x 17.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 331,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

Even for those who do not normally read science fiction, there is plenty here to enthrall. Not so much a space opera as a cosmic epic. (GOOD BOOK GUIDE)

Book Description

The second of Baxter's DESTINY'S CHILDREN series moves the story into the distant future and a grim vision of inter-galactic war.

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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?
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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