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Coalescent

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When his father dies suddenly, George Poole stumbles onto a family secret: He has a twin sister he never knew existed, who was raised by an enigmatic cult called the Order. The Order is a hive - a human hive with a dominant queen--that has prospered below the streets of Rome for almost two millennia. After Poole enters the Order's vast underground city and meets the distur When his father dies suddenly, George Poole stumbles onto a family secret: He has a twin sister he never knew existed, who was raised by an enigmatic cult called the Order. The Order is a hive - a human hive with a dominant queen--that has prospered below the streets of Rome for almost two millennia. After Poole enters the Order's vast underground city and meets the disturbing inhabitants, he uncovers evidence that they have embarked on a divergent evolutionary path. These genetically superior humans are equipped with the tools necessary to render modern Homo sapiens as extinct as the Neanderthals. And now they are preparing to leave their underground realm.


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When his father dies suddenly, George Poole stumbles onto a family secret: He has a twin sister he never knew existed, who was raised by an enigmatic cult called the Order. The Order is a hive - a human hive with a dominant queen--that has prospered below the streets of Rome for almost two millennia. After Poole enters the Order's vast underground city and meets the distur When his father dies suddenly, George Poole stumbles onto a family secret: He has a twin sister he never knew existed, who was raised by an enigmatic cult called the Order. The Order is a hive - a human hive with a dominant queen--that has prospered below the streets of Rome for almost two millennia. After Poole enters the Order's vast underground city and meets the disturbing inhabitants, he uncovers evidence that they have embarked on a divergent evolutionary path. These genetically superior humans are equipped with the tools necessary to render modern Homo sapiens as extinct as the Neanderthals. And now they are preparing to leave their underground realm.

30 review for Coalescent

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    Sometimes I think Baxter is a hit-or-miss kind of author, thinking he goes over the same ground in rather interesting new ways, but when I think about it... His George Poole characters are all rather... DIFFERENT. Yes, yes, George Poole is here, again, but the kind of story told isn't spanning the world or the galaxy or all of time... this time. Rather, we've got a rather cool Roman historical romance (of a kind) that brings together old English history and the Celts in rather awesome ways while Sometimes I think Baxter is a hit-or-miss kind of author, thinking he goes over the same ground in rather interesting new ways, but when I think about it... His George Poole characters are all rather... DIFFERENT. Yes, yes, George Poole is here, again, but the kind of story told isn't spanning the world or the galaxy or all of time... this time. Rather, we've got a rather cool Roman historical romance (of a kind) that brings together old English history and the Celts in rather awesome ways while jumping back to the current time in a cool family history mystery. I was frankly entertained. Both sides of history (and later on, a future history,) were fascinating and thrilling and reminded me at times of Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio, a historical drama, and a first-contact SF. All three are wonderful and at some moments I was reminded of Poul Anderson's The Boat of a Million Years. That's high praise. :) I'm into this enough that I have to jump on the second book right away. After all, we're talking about a full transformation of humanity into a HIVE MIND! Yay! It's what I asked Santa for Christmas! ;)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nick Borrelli

    Full review forthcoming

  3. 5 out of 5

    Palmyrah

    A very bad book, but it did keep me reading all the way to the end. As to why, later. The construction of Coalescent is a sloppy mess. Essentially there are two narrative streams told in alternate chapters. One is set in the present day (c.2000) and one begins in fourth-century Britain soon after Constantine left it to go purple-hunting in Rome, taking most of the Roman garrison with him and leaving the island wide open to plunder by the Saxons. This 'Roman' stream is told in the third person. Mos A very bad book, but it did keep me reading all the way to the end. As to why, later. The construction of Coalescent is a sloppy mess. Essentially there are two narrative streams told in alternate chapters. One is set in the present day (c.2000) and one begins in fourth-century Britain soon after Constantine left it to go purple-hunting in Rome, taking most of the Roman garrison with him and leaving the island wide open to plunder by the Saxons. This 'Roman' stream is told in the third person. Most of it concerns the life of a young Roman Briton called Regina, who goes to rather far-fetched lengths to ensure the preservation (for all time) of her family. Except that after a while we leave Regina behind and go tripping lightly forward through the centuries till we reach the Victorian era. Not very elegant, nor very easy to follow. The 'present-day' stream mostly stays in the present day, but even more confusingly than the 'Roman' stream, it begins as a first-person narrative, suddenly slips into the third person to cover events the narrator could not possibly have experienced, then cheekily slides back into the first person! And then, to make matters worse, in the last three chapters of that stream, the narrative suddenly leaps forward twenty thousand years into the future, springs back to the present day and jumps forward yet again. Cripes. Couldn't the guy have found a less clumsy way to tell his story? An epistolary frame, or a nested Thousand and One Nights-style narrative could easily have done the trick. Or can't Baxter write at all, without Arthur C. Clarke around to hold his hand? And then there are all these strange lights in the sky, in Roman times and modern, which are clearly vital to the action but which we are never really told anything about. Obviously we've got to buy Part II, or maybe Part III, to find out what they're all about. I call that a rip-off. Stephen Baxter is no Gene Wolfe; his story ideas and literary skills aren't nearly of a calibre deserving of such trust from his readers. This blatant (and cheap) sales ploy really made me angry, and is why this book only gets one star from me instead of two. These days, a lot of commercial SF--such as the works of Alastair Reynolds--are targeted at a juvenile audience, and are none the worse for that. Baxter is clearly aiming at adults, but his book is far less acceptable in terms of quality than anything Reynolds (and I am not a fan of his) has done. I shan't be wasting my time with any subsequent volumes of this tale. I did say it kept me reading. That's because I soon came to detest one of the principal characters so much I just had to see him/her/it get his/her/its comeuppance. Guess what? He/she/it didn't. Thank the Powers I borrowed this from a library. If I'd paid good money for it, I'd be kicking myself. Oh, and did I mention that the filth and decay of civilization throughout the 'Roman' stream was so endlessly overdone and harped upon it actually did nauseate me?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    I have been a Baxter fan for years and this is a reread, but oh, what a read! This is a very difficult novel to review but here goes. George Poole, our lead, travels back to Manchester from London after his father dies to take care of the house and so forth. While there, he finds a picture of himself as a small child, but next to him appears to be his twin sister, although he does not remember her. He journeys to Miami to ask his older sister about it and yes, it is his twin. There is a family l I have been a Baxter fan for years and this is a reread, but oh, what a read! This is a very difficult novel to review but here goes. George Poole, our lead, travels back to Manchester from London after his father dies to take care of the house and so forth. While there, he finds a picture of himself as a small child, but next to him appears to be his twin sister, although he does not remember her. He journeys to Miami to ask his older sister about it and yes, it is his twin. There is a family legend if you will of Regina, an ancient ancestor from Roman era Britain who in the end fled to Rome and George's sister tells him that his twin was basically adopted by this side of the family. Regina founded what is now called 'the order', a supposedly religious sect in Rome that still exists. George decides, finally, that he needs to go to Rome to find his missing sister... Alongside the present story line, Baxter takes us to Ancient Britain to a young Regina. We follow her life there and Baxter is amazing here, describing the collapse of the Roman rule and the Saxon invasion. From there on in, we constantly oscillate between the present day and Regina's, and all of her trials and tribulations. What Regina inadvertently started was the world's first 'human hive', a self-replicating society that lives basically just to live. The people in the Order, over multiple generations, began to evolve into a collective, with each member playing a role (drone, breeder, etc.). We then follow the Order via bits and orts into the present day, where the story lines once again join. Finally, at the very end, we jump far into the future, emerging in the Xeelee universe for just a moment, where human 'hives' are being harvested for soldiers... This is a grand, sweeping novel; part historical fiction, part speculative fiction, and of course, part science fiction. Despite being a hard science fiction author, Baxter does a decent job developing characters here, something needed as 'science' plays a very small role in the story. The narrative of how humans can evolve to become coalescent is fascinating, and the careful recreation of ancient Rome and Britain is excellent. 4.5 stars!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bob(by)

    Some lady who hangs out with King Arthur goes into hiding and creates an insect-like hive society. Some modern day dude happens upon it. Hijinks ensue.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Roy

    Let's be upfront about it: Coalescent is not a book for everyone. It alienates Baxter fans who are used to distant-future high-concept space opera, and it alienates casual fans who might pick this up as a historical novel. Essentially, it pleases neither crowd. So, is it worth reading? Absolutely, but you better be patient. The story starts at the Fall of the Roman Empire, and follows a young British Roman woman named Regina as her world falls apart around her. The majority of the novel focuses o Let's be upfront about it: Coalescent is not a book for everyone. It alienates Baxter fans who are used to distant-future high-concept space opera, and it alienates casual fans who might pick this up as a historical novel. Essentially, it pleases neither crowd. So, is it worth reading? Absolutely, but you better be patient. The story starts at the Fall of the Roman Empire, and follows a young British Roman woman named Regina as her world falls apart around her. The majority of the novel focuses on Regina's trials, as she escapes war-torn Britain and ends up in Rome by way of Avalon. (More on this in a moment.) In parallel with this, we follow the actions of a mild-mannered British man, a descendant of Regina, who discovers he has a long-lost twin sister secluded in an Italian religious order. If this doesn't sound like exciting SF, well, that's because it ain't. The story of Regina is somewhat interesting, but a lot of time is spent by Baxter showing us how much historical research he put into making this a geniune historical novel. There's a somewhat interesting segue to the story as Regina joins King Arthur's court, becoming the historical inspiration for Morgan by virtue of being Merlin's rival; however, it serves no real purpose except being clever, and actually detracts from the goals of Regina's story arc, which is to provide a historically believeable context to the founding of the Order. The modern storyline, following a descendant of Regina as he comes to grip with the existence of a long-lost twin, also unfortunately feels like filler. This is mostly because the main character, mild-mannered, middle-aged George Poole, is not that interesting at all. Fortunately, his eccentric and paranoid geek friend, Peter McLachlan, provides for tasty SF ideas such as galactic-scale weapons and Dark Matter starships. These moments are few and far between, but they provide a hint as to the greatness that is to come. If you manage to get through the dreary start, things suddenly kick into overdrive. Regina gets to Rome, and founds a secretive Order that still exists centuries later. George Poole, in modern times, discovers the ramifications of the Order as he finds his lost sister. That's when things get really crazy, and we finally understand where Baxter was going all along. I'm not gonna spoil it for you; I had the pleasure of reading this novel without forewarning, and I suggest you do the same. Suffice to say that the point of Coalescent is to provide a deep reflection on the nature of human society, and in this aspect, it more than delivers. If this kind of payoff seems appealing to you regardless of the obstacles I described previously, then go ahead and pick up Coalescent. In the end, Coalescent returns to solid SF grounds, and the perspective is dizzying and highly satisfying. As a book of Big Ideas, Coalescent works perfectly, and is well worth the time investment. It's a book that rewards patience, in spades. Coalescent is technically the first of a trilogy called Destiny's Children. The novel was strong enough to make me pick up the sequel, Exultant, but I must warn you that the sequel is nowhere near the level of Coalescent. Yes, passing references are made to it in the sequel novel, but they amount to a poor novel paying hommage to a much superior one, and you won't miss anything by skipping Exultant. Do yourself a favor and consider Coalescent a stand-alone story.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Faith Justice

    First of all, the back cover info is a trifle misleading, which is a shame because the real story is just as good and absorbing as the cover hype. The book weaves together three narratives: George Poole's first person mystery as he searches for his lost sister; the historical fiction 5th Century exploits of one of his ancestors Regina, who lives through the fall of the Roman Empire in Britain, moves to Rome, and founds the Order; and the modern SF story of Lucia, one of the members of the Order. First of all, the back cover info is a trifle misleading, which is a shame because the real story is just as good and absorbing as the cover hype. The book weaves together three narratives: George Poole's first person mystery as he searches for his lost sister; the historical fiction 5th Century exploits of one of his ancestors Regina, who lives through the fall of the Roman Empire in Britain, moves to Rome, and founds the Order; and the modern SF story of Lucia, one of the members of the Order. Of the three, I found George's story to be the weakest. He is basically a foil for introducing the other two and a stand-in for the reader; someone to whom things can be explained rather than an active agent. As the book progressed I actually became a little impatient with the George story and always looked forward to the next installments of Regina and Lucia. The book is a fascinating meld of science fiction and historical fiction. Baxter does a great job showing how the withdrawal of Rome from Britain resulted in the rapid decline of cities, withering of trade, decline of population and the loss of education and skills; in other words, the rapid onset of the Dark Ages in just a couple of generations. King Arthur makes an appearance--as two different characters that are frequently cited as sources for the legend--as well as Merlin. Baxter also does a credible job of creating the Order, giving it a sound basis in science and biology, and evolving it through 1500 years to the semblance of a hive. Although there is no dominant queen and they don't "plan" an invasion of the rest of earth, as trumpeted in the back matter. I do have a nit to pick. Baxter has a penchant for punning names. In another book I reviewed, his rogue protagonist was Malenfant (bad child in French.) In this one, the founding mother of the Order is Regina (queen.) He also named some secondary characters after historical figures that lived in those times. The fictional ones had nothing to do with the historical characters, so I found it jarring whenever they appeared. There are plenty of names that don't carry any associations, which could have easily been used. Naming is a tricky thing and there is nothing wrong with using a name to reinforce a character, but if it pulls the reader out of the story, it's a distraction. To summarize, I enjoyed the book. The writing is straight-forward, the characters interesting, the plot unique. Baxter is a deep thinker who sprinkles his narrative with discussions of social behavior, philosophy, morals, and science. I'd recommend this book to both the SF and HF communities.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    I really enjoyed book one of the Destiny's Children series. The format of alternating between present day and 300 A.C.E. Rome was an interesting way bring all the events of the story together. It also made me question our human perception of time as a thing to be experienced as linear. By alternating each chapter between the present and ancient times events, I was able to think of the events in time as if they were happening concurrently as opposed to hundreds of years apart. I'm not sure if thi I really enjoyed book one of the Destiny's Children series. The format of alternating between present day and 300 A.C.E. Rome was an interesting way bring all the events of the story together. It also made me question our human perception of time as a thing to be experienced as linear. By alternating each chapter between the present and ancient times events, I was able to think of the events in time as if they were happening concurrently as opposed to hundreds of years apart. I'm not sure if this was Baxter's intent, but it is one thing I took out of this book. The story was really interesting. In Coalescent Baxter spends a lot of time building up the events taking place on Earth that set up the future of the series as mankind eventually spreads out into the galaxy. A glimpse into that future won't happen until the final couple of chapters of Coalescent. You may find yourself wondering how this book qualifies as Sci-Fi as you read through the first 90 percent of it. Just wait.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Peter Walton-Jones

    Once again I have been drawn into a series of stories where the first part has left me uncertain as to whether I really want more. Science Fiction at its best challenges our view of people; history, the future, technology, religion, power, politics, culture, etc. This is a fairly good story with some interesting ideas about evolution and genetics. It spans across time from the days of "Arthur" to today and hints of the future. The genetic mutation (people mimicking hiving insects as a survival m Once again I have been drawn into a series of stories where the first part has left me uncertain as to whether I really want more. Science Fiction at its best challenges our view of people; history, the future, technology, religion, power, politics, culture, etc. This is a fairly good story with some interesting ideas about evolution and genetics. It spans across time from the days of "Arthur" to today and hints of the future. The genetic mutation (people mimicking hiving insects as a survival mechanism?), the "Kuiper Anomaly" in space, the mysterious "dark matter" are interesting themes, but the book is generally too long and repetitive; the narrative sometimes grinds out without really adding very much overall. I guess I will be taking on part 2...however I do not feel I must...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    The back cover text led me to believe that this was a very different flavor of book than it turned out to be. Almost the entirety of that supposed teaser applies not to the entire book, but to the end of the book. That’s right–instead of providing the premise, they provide the climax (and some of that description is actually incorrect). Also, the text presents an impression of a book that is heavily sci-fi and suspenseful, which simply isn’t the case. The majority of the book is a combination of The back cover text led me to believe that this was a very different flavor of book than it turned out to be. Almost the entirety of that supposed teaser applies not to the entire book, but to the end of the book. That’s right–instead of providing the premise, they provide the climax (and some of that description is actually incorrect). Also, the text presents an impression of a book that is heavily sci-fi and suspenseful, which simply isn’t the case. The majority of the book is a combination of George slowly tracking down his sister in parallel with the Order’s origin story in ancient Rome. Which means that most of the book is actually a historical with no sci-fi content whatsoever. There’s also virtually no suspense to the pacing–it’s a slow unfolding of history, location, and plot, with a gradual, immersive pacing and a great deal of information to impart. Here’s the really frustrating part of that: it’s a good book. Despite the fact that historicals aren’t my thing, I’m not fond of didactic books that spend whole pages on geography and history lessons, and I was really looking forward to the SF/suspense book that I thought I was getting, it totally hooked me in. I loved it. The characterization is interesting. Regina is the star of the show--her drive to survive, and some of the things she does in order to do so, are fascinating. Note that there’s some dark material in here–the sacking of places by invaders is rarely anything but horrific. I also appreciated the use of Lucia, a member of the Order who doesn’t entirely fit in, as a means to explore the modern-day Order. The slow unfolding of both stories engaged me despite the fact that I’d really wanted a suspenseful novel and don’t normally read historicals. I found some of the epilogue material, which jumps ahead very far in time, confusing, but that didn’t ruin the rest of the book for me. I just hope that my review allows you to decide whether you’d enjoy the book based on the actual content. Visit my site for a longer review including premise: http://www.errantdreams.com/2014/06/r...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    I always find I enjoy Stephen Baxter's books more than most people seem to. This one is very different from his other work but I loved it all the same. Usually Baxter has a decent concept which he then builds a story around. This one is slightly different in that the story sets up the concept, rather than the other way around. The main story focuses on Regina, a young girl living in Britain as the Roman Empire begins to crumble. We see the story of her whole life as her life of luxury soon turns I always find I enjoy Stephen Baxter's books more than most people seem to. This one is very different from his other work but I loved it all the same. Usually Baxter has a decent concept which he then builds a story around. This one is slightly different in that the story sets up the concept, rather than the other way around. The main story focuses on Regina, a young girl living in Britain as the Roman Empire begins to crumble. We see the story of her whole life as her life of luxury soon turns into a battle for survival as they travels across Britain, a country swiftly heading into the dark ages, and eventually makes her way to Rome. It's very character driven, something which is unusual for Baxter. There was obviously a lot of research involved here as post-Roman Britain feels very real and there's a real sense of doom as civilisation literally falls apart. Regina is a character created by her circumstances, turning from a spoilt child to a woman who will do anything to keep her family going. We have alternate chapters set in the contemporary world, although these are considerably shorter. George Poole is something of a loser and he returns home to deal with the death of his father. Whilst sorting through his house he discovers he had a long-lost sister and eventually decides to find her. All he knows it that she is part of the ancient religious Order. But just what is the Order and what is it for? This is the big concept part of the book that is not really revealed until the final quarter of the book. Essentially its an entirely different way for a human society to run. It's difficult to give this a genre. If a story is theoretically possible apart from a few minor details is it still science fiction. There's no time travel or aliens (well they are mentioned but not really part of the story) or impossible gadgets or space travel or anything we'd associate with science-fiction. I almost think this is its own genre, a sort of natural science fiction. Anyway, I really enjoyed this. A wonderful and disturbing concept housed with a great historical story to set it up. Unique and brilliant.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tom Loock

    I can see the objections raised by other readers, but I really liked this one and will read the sequel as my second but next novel. Recommended for anyone who likes historic novels taking place in the final years of the Roman empire and/or different ways societies can be organized.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    There is a big spoiler ahead. It's not fully revealed until late in the book, but it is also revealed on the dust jacket, and so maybe it isn't such a big spoiler after all. This is an engaging novel with interesting ideas, but they come across pretty heavy-handed in the last few chapters, where a long litany of reasons the Coalescents really, truly are a hive are presented as boring conversations between George and Peter. One of the things I like best about Baxter's writing is when he takes some There is a big spoiler ahead. It's not fully revealed until late in the book, but it is also revealed on the dust jacket, and so maybe it isn't such a big spoiler after all. This is an engaging novel with interesting ideas, but they come across pretty heavy-handed in the last few chapters, where a long litany of reasons the Coalescents really, truly are a hive are presented as boring conversations between George and Peter. One of the things I like best about Baxter's writing is when he takes some fantastic hypothesis, and then relentlessly draws the most natural and logical inferences from that idea. Here, I felt like he started with where he wanted to end up and maybe overcompensated in trying to convince the reader it was believable. Despite my complaints, this is worth reading. It is also possible that future installments in the series will cause me to improve my assessment. my favorite quote: "Childhood is so long when you live it, but so brief when you look at it from outside."

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Not what I expected at all from the synopsis. It was very slow paced, yet the questions and mysteries that Stephen Baxter had embedded within the pages kept me turning. The end of the book left me teetering on an awkward fence between completely disappointed, and severely shocked. The underlying message that Stephen Baxter was communicating was worth the read. However, it is definitely not a book that I put any re-read value into. Not what I expected at all from the synopsis. It was very slow paced, yet the questions and mysteries that Stephen Baxter had embedded within the pages kept me turning. The end of the book left me teetering on an awkward fence between completely disappointed, and severely shocked. The underlying message that Stephen Baxter was communicating was worth the read. However, it is definitely not a book that I put any re-read value into.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    This book contained interesting ideas I could appreciate, but Baxter is too often limited by his engineering background. He often comes across as a stereotypical engineer, and his characters don't quite seem fully fleshed out, acting more as schematics to aid his design. His understanding of evolution also irritated me a bit at points, as he ignored the costs of adaptations and limits of evolution in a few points, but I recognize this is a biologist niggling over how an engineer views a biologic This book contained interesting ideas I could appreciate, but Baxter is too often limited by his engineering background. He often comes across as a stereotypical engineer, and his characters don't quite seem fully fleshed out, acting more as schematics to aid his design. His understanding of evolution also irritated me a bit at points, as he ignored the costs of adaptations and limits of evolution in a few points, but I recognize this is a biologist niggling over how an engineer views a biological concept. I'v appreciated Baxter's work much more when he is tempered by Arthur C. Clarke; then again, who wouldn't?

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    I really liked the idea here of divergent human evolution. The idea of a "coalescence" is an enduring contribution to science fiction. I also have to say that I loved the historical segment about the fall of Rome. It really seemed to me to get it right: how things slowly fell apart, and never got right again. As Eliot said, "not with a bang, but a whimper." Really 3.5 stars. See also my review of Transcendent by the same author. I really liked the idea here of divergent human evolution. The idea of a "coalescence" is an enduring contribution to science fiction. I also have to say that I loved the historical segment about the fall of Rome. It really seemed to me to get it right: how things slowly fell apart, and never got right again. As Eliot said, "not with a bang, but a whimper." Really 3.5 stars. See also my review of Transcendent by the same author.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Beck Fitzsimmons

    this book began slowly, seriously slowly! It took me three tries until i got hooked. The ideas were intriguing but the delivery felt clumsy and sort of awkward. The historical ventures into the disintegration of Roman/British society were actually quite enjoyable. But I ended up dreading the increasingly inevitable scene of eusociety projected into the future. And when it finally came (ch 49) it just seemed ridiculous. I didn't have high expectations of this book. Just a bit of post-thesis escap this book began slowly, seriously slowly! It took me three tries until i got hooked. The ideas were intriguing but the delivery felt clumsy and sort of awkward. The historical ventures into the disintegration of Roman/British society were actually quite enjoyable. But I ended up dreading the increasingly inevitable scene of eusociety projected into the future. And when it finally came (ch 49) it just seemed ridiculous. I didn't have high expectations of this book. Just a bit of post-thesis escapism - on that basis I guess it delivers.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Book Nerd

    I'm surprised a lot of people don't like this book. A few things about the coalescent society(subspecies?) I found pretty hard to believe. (view spoiler)[(Three month pregnacies? Developing a new organ in less than two thousand years?) (hide spoiler)] but the story was great. I love the idea of eusocial humans and I love how the Xeelee Sequence goes all over time. I think Stephen Baxter and Alestair Reynolds are the two greatest sci-fi authors of the current day. I'm surprised a lot of people don't like this book. A few things about the coalescent society(subspecies?) I found pretty hard to believe. (view spoiler)[(Three month pregnacies? Developing a new organ in less than two thousand years?) (hide spoiler)] but the story was great. I love the idea of eusocial humans and I love how the Xeelee Sequence goes all over time. I think Stephen Baxter and Alestair Reynolds are the two greatest sci-fi authors of the current day.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Karen Sweet

    Evolution re humans The concept is mind blowing. Maybe more importantly, he writes well and in the process, the reader gets some history, science, pholisophy, and physics. It’s a full banquet—no fast food here.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Costin Manda

    In 1973, Frank Herbert wrote a book called Hellstrom's Hive in which it described a sect of people that lived underground, in a system much alike insects, with individuals specialised for different tasks and all living for the big hive organism. The book did not explain how it all got there, it just quickly described the situation and then delved into the action. Jump to Stephen Baxter's Coalescent, the first book of the Destiny's Children series, which pretty much details how a group of humans w In 1973, Frank Herbert wrote a book called Hellstrom's Hive in which it described a sect of people that lived underground, in a system much alike insects, with individuals specialised for different tasks and all living for the big hive organism. The book did not explain how it all got there, it just quickly described the situation and then delved into the action. Jump to Stephen Baxter's Coalescent, the first book of the Destiny's Children series, which pretty much details how a group of humans would reach a plausible hive like society. Unfortunately, the book is more descriptive than anything else, failing to deliver in the action part. A lot of characters are developed and a lot of history (both personal and general) is detailed, but in the end the characters vanish as if they never mattered. It is, after all, the whole point of the novel, that ignorant individuals following certain rules lead to the emergence of patterns, but it did not fit well within a book. Not that the book itself is not fascinating and well written, because it is, but the pace is very slow at the beginning, accelerating to a snail pace in the end, while the different parts of the book seem fractured, too little related to one another. I intend to read the rest of the books in the series, but I might just give up, too. Bottom line, I think it would be a nice read to start with Coalescent and then read Hellstrom's Hive, although I do think the second book to be much better.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Renato

    This was a very nice book. I didn’t know anything about the plot, so I started reading it without knowing anything about it, and things started to unfold in a nice way that kept me interested until the end (which is quite well formulated, in my opinion). The narrative is compelling and keeps you curious, as you want to know how things will end up tied together. No spoilers here, but the reader will stumble upon hive theory and similar subjects. Which is interesting but, at a first glance, not tha This was a very nice book. I didn’t know anything about the plot, so I started reading it without knowing anything about it, and things started to unfold in a nice way that kept me interested until the end (which is quite well formulated, in my opinion). The narrative is compelling and keeps you curious, as you want to know how things will end up tied together. No spoilers here, but the reader will stumble upon hive theory and similar subjects. Which is interesting but, at a first glance, not that much “entertaining”. However, as things move forward and you start getting deeper into the story, you end up making comparisons with the real world and you realize that, although the fictional society described in the book may be “a bit too much”, there are several similarities with what we experience today in our brick & mortar world, in the way our own societies are organized somehow and how people go about their lives in terms of “group behavior”, and also the way how companies and “company culture” works in traditional, large old enterprises, especially. In summary, if you like fiction with good science (not a space opera) and drama, you will enjoy this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Andy Mac

    I was a little disappointed with this one. There were three main "issues" for me (without giving too much away) - The main character set in the present isn't a character I ever grew to care about. He's a bit of a bumbler and really just serves to present a pair of eyes to show us portions of the story - Most of the book feels like exposition. It's a 4 book series, so I'm willing to give the next book a chance (who am I kidding, I'll still probably read all 4 regardless ... Baxter is an excellent I was a little disappointed with this one. There were three main "issues" for me (without giving too much away) - The main character set in the present isn't a character I ever grew to care about. He's a bit of a bumbler and really just serves to present a pair of eyes to show us portions of the story - Most of the book feels like exposition. It's a 4 book series, so I'm willing to give the next book a chance (who am I kidding, I'll still probably read all 4 regardless ... Baxter is an excellent author and even his "not great" stories are still good). But this book in many places felt like a slog just to get to the few points Baxter was making - There's very little "science fiction" in this. Perhaps we could stretch and call some of the social fiction science fiction, but even with that, there's very little of it. The most gripping part of this book really was the story set in the far past. As a historical fiction, that piece of the narrative was very successful. We'll see if, after building up all of this structure, Baxter utilizes it again in the future stories, or if much of it was "wasted" in over-describing how these groups of people came together.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ashlee

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. For the vast majority of this book I was deeply, deeply uncomfortable. The choices of an unlikeable, selfish character set in the fall of the Roman character were almost enough to make me put the whole thing down, from prostituting out her daughter to the strange, gut reactions she had in the formation of her heritage-worshiping cult. Glimpses of a historical Arthur were possibly the only thing that saves this from a one-star review— that and the promise of science fiction world-building at the For the vast majority of this book I was deeply, deeply uncomfortable. The choices of an unlikeable, selfish character set in the fall of the Roman character were almost enough to make me put the whole thing down, from prostituting out her daughter to the strange, gut reactions she had in the formation of her heritage-worshiping cult. Glimpses of a historical Arthur were possibly the only thing that saves this from a one-star review— that and the promise of science fiction world-building at the end that hinted at something better, a greater purpose to the suffering sprinkled out throughout the book. I can’t tell if the insect-like people that the Order became was misogynistic or not, or if it was a warning of groupthink, or something different. I’ll be thinking about this story for a long time, and not in a good way.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Florin Constantinescu

    Wait, this is part of the Xeelee Sequence? How? Not only are we constricted to Earth, we are on medieval (and modern) Earth and even underground for most of the times. A human hive has lived underground for centuries, deviated some from the main human line and is now ready to take over the Earth! For Pete's sake, what's this got to do with the war in space? Supposedly in one of the sequels we're going to be needing this bit of background information... but this novel could easily have been a novel Wait, this is part of the Xeelee Sequence? How? Not only are we constricted to Earth, we are on medieval (and modern) Earth and even underground for most of the times. A human hive has lived underground for centuries, deviated some from the main human line and is now ready to take over the Earth! For Pete's sake, what's this got to do with the war in space? Supposedly in one of the sequels we're going to be needing this bit of background information... but this novel could easily have been a novella. Not that it's badly written or anything, but I am out here looking to do battle with the Xeelee, not worry about humans underground...

  25. 5 out of 5

    John Hodgkinson

    When I first read this book, I was rather confused as to where the plot was going or, indeed, if there was one. The constant switching of timelines also didn't help. This time I got into the story fairly quickly and had forgotten the ending, so that when it came it was a surprise to me. I won't spoil the book by describing what goes on in it; I'll let others do that. However, I can say that this is a very good tart to the trilogy. It sets the scene for what comes in the next two books and does i When I first read this book, I was rather confused as to where the plot was going or, indeed, if there was one. The constant switching of timelines also didn't help. This time I got into the story fairly quickly and had forgotten the ending, so that when it came it was a surprise to me. I won't spoil the book by describing what goes on in it; I'll let others do that. However, I can say that this is a very good tart to the trilogy. It sets the scene for what comes in the next two books and does it very well. There is not much "real" sci-fi in this one, but that is made up for in the second book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alan Floyd

    An interesting (chronological) introduction to a strange universe. I've decided to take on Baxter's "Xeelee Sequence" which consists of 7 novels and 50+ short stories and apparently takes place over the course of 5 billion years. After seeing his complete timeline ( http://www.stephen-baxter.com/article... ) I decided the only way to tackle this series would be chronologically. Having already read "Raft" before switching to a chronological read through, I'm still wondering when I'm going to final An interesting (chronological) introduction to a strange universe. I've decided to take on Baxter's "Xeelee Sequence" which consists of 7 novels and 50+ short stories and apparently takes place over the course of 5 billion years. After seeing his complete timeline ( http://www.stephen-baxter.com/article... ) I decided the only way to tackle this series would be chronologically. Having already read "Raft" before switching to a chronological read through, I'm still wondering when I'm going to finally meet one of these Xeelee aliens... or maybe I have and I don't know it? 🤔 I guess I'll read and find out.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Anton Hammarstedt

    I can't really say all that much without spoiling anything. This is the type of story where the gradual revelations of worldbuilding effort make up much of the plot so I can't really say much beyond how this is a science-fiction story that at least initially takes place in modern-day England and AD300-ish Roman Brittannia. All two (view spoiler)[ or three (hide spoiler)] parallel timelines are intensely interesting, and (view spoiler)[ the payoff, and especially the world presented in the next p I can't really say all that much without spoiling anything. This is the type of story where the gradual revelations of worldbuilding effort make up much of the plot so I can't really say much beyond how this is a science-fiction story that at least initially takes place in modern-day England and AD300-ish Roman Brittannia. All two (view spoiler)[ or three (hide spoiler)] parallel timelines are intensely interesting, and (view spoiler)[ the payoff, and especially the world presented in the next part of the series, feels very much like a hard-SF take on WH40k (hide spoiler)] .

  28. 5 out of 5

    Booth Babcock

    I've been hearing about the Xelee sequence for a while, so finally decided to start reading it. The series was written completely out of chronological order, so while this book is set earliest, it was written later. It is not clear at all what this book has to do with a far future interplanetary space opera, as it is very much the story of people on earth in our time, but I'm definitely curious to see where it goes, and can see that Baxter doesn't shy away from big ideas. I've been hearing about the Xelee sequence for a while, so finally decided to start reading it. The series was written completely out of chronological order, so while this book is set earliest, it was written later. It is not clear at all what this book has to do with a far future interplanetary space opera, as it is very much the story of people on earth in our time, but I'm definitely curious to see where it goes, and can see that Baxter doesn't shy away from big ideas.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rodeweeks

    By now I am used to the fact that Baxter takes forever to get to the point, if the story wasn't so good I might have given up. It start out as a kind of historical novel but then somewhere in the middle it gets stranger and stranger until, almost at the very end, things are so strange that you can't help saying WTF every few pages. That, despite the taking long, makes it worthwhile to read to the end. Great read, hard sci-fi. By now I am used to the fact that Baxter takes forever to get to the point, if the story wasn't so good I might have given up. It start out as a kind of historical novel but then somewhere in the middle it gets stranger and stranger until, almost at the very end, things are so strange that you can't help saying WTF every few pages. That, despite the taking long, makes it worthwhile to read to the end. Great read, hard sci-fi.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jeroen Maan

    An intelligent and well-written book. Two at first seemingly unconnected storylines develope into a double helix with a nice twist at the end (don't want give anything away). This first book of the series seems to be the runway toward the 'regular' science fiction in the following novels in the series. I enjoyed this first novel so much that I started the second one, Exultant. An intelligent and well-written book. Two at first seemingly unconnected storylines develope into a double helix with a nice twist at the end (don't want give anything away). This first book of the series seems to be the runway toward the 'regular' science fiction in the following novels in the series. I enjoyed this first novel so much that I started the second one, Exultant.

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