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on 15 November 2017
You'd be forgiven for thinking this isn't science fiction, right up to about page 400 (paperback version, kindle may be longer). Then all the threads begin to come together and you realise there actually is a slender scientific idea behind this novel. If you're as widely read in SF as I am you'll get the concept right away, without having to wait till the final few chapters when it's all explained for duffel-heads. As always, Baxter gives us the long version of everything, but his easy-to-digest writing style allows him to get away with this. Although being part of a brand new Xeelee Trilogy, it reads as a stand-alone novel, as if fact did all component parts of the original quadrilogy. That's a measure of the man's writing skill.
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on 8 November 2017
Hard work, really hard work. I stuck with it because (apparently) the subsequent books are more interesting. I've yet to get around to them. But boy was this a tough slog through a lot of dull and frankly pretty unconvincing historical settings. All the Roman Britain stuff, it seemed to me by the end, could probably have been dealt with in a brisk chapter or two, but no it takes about 2/3 of the book to even get to the point where the "colony" is formed. And as for any sympathetic or resonant characters ... hmmm. I guess I'll have to take the plunge and try the next book.
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on 10 March 2014
The emergence over many centuries of an alternative branch of human evolution. The story describes two separate strands of time, the current one and one starting at the fall of the Roman Empire, and brings them gradually together. Not your average sci fi story, more like a very long preamble to prepare for the following books, but well written all the same.
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on 8 October 2014
good read, fast delivery
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on 1 March 2014
Great ideas but the book just felt a bit slackly written. I also found all but one of the characters completely obnoxious.
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on 18 August 2004
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.
6 people found this helpful
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on 5 April 2011
Because that's the only section of science fiction in this book.

I understand that Stephen Baxter was trying to build some kind of evolutionary
slant into his Xeelee universe but I really pushed hard to get through half of
the book before I gave up and skipped to the end.

The main problem is that the two initial main characters, Regina (the Roman girl)
and George (the modern day man) are so absolutely dull and lifeless that the book
reads like a diary, succintly summing up each of their days with no flair or
plot advancement.

I loved the Xeelee Sequence and thought this would be a great addition to the
fictional universe but all it ended up doing for me was sending me to sleep, rather
than to the edge of known space.
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on 5 September 2006
Coalecent is lacking in interesting characters, well written dialog, and (except for the premise itself, which is hardly an original one) in interesting ideas. Baxter crudely pushes the plot along with his authorial hand, with key events happening for no good reason. If you want to read a book full of lifeless, cliche-utering zombies, unredeemed by the sort of scientific speculation that authors like Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, Greg Egan and Vernor Vinge (I knew I could come up with one non-Greg if I tried) then this is your chance.
2 people found this helpful
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VINE VOICEon 26 October 2006
I absolutely loved "Evolution" but Baxter's "Destiny's Children" series - of which this is the first volume - seemed far to geeky, but not judging a book by its cover is definitely good advice here because "Coalescent" is brilliant. The story involves three interconnecting threads about the evolution of mankind and civilisation; two in the modern day and one based in an apocalyptic Briton following the collapse of the Roman Empire - staggeringly epic stuff but firmly grounded by the realism of the characters and lightened up by the pure fun, page-turning thrill of the story. Its not perfect though, the central core of the story involves an order of subterranean super-women who have embarked on an alarmingly different evolutionary path to our own, and much as Baxter makes everything seem possible in his usual thought provoking way I still kind of thought it was all a bit silly (I gamely avoided the occasional gaping plot hole in an effort to keep the story alive). I'm still looking forward to seeing how the story develops though. I would recommend this to all fans of history, evolutionary science or just anyone after a superb thriller.
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on 18 November 2007
This book frustrated me slightly to begin as it did take a long time to get into, but once I got past the first 80 pages or so I was

Things I especially liked were the dual connected stories set in different time periods, the toughness and ruthlessness of some of the main protagonists and the gradual build up to the hive living core element. The picure painted of ancient times was also both interesting, exciting and disturbing in terms of the violence and harsness of life.

I would say there is nothing in the way of space based SF in this book but this is more than compensated for in the remaining books of the series.

A definite thumbs up after a slow start from me...
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