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Stephen Baxter
Del Rey, 485 pages

Stephen Baxter
Stephen Baxter was born in 1957 and was raised in Liverpool. He studied mathematics at Cambridge and got a PhD from Southampton. He worked in information technology and lives in Buckinghamshire, England. His first story, "The Xeelee Flower," was published in Interzone 19.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Phase Space
SF Site Review: Reality Dust
SF Site Review: The Time Ships
SF Site Review: Origin
SF Site Review: Origin
SF Site Review: Longtusk and Deep Future
SF Site Review: Manifold: Space
SF Site Review: Longtusk
SF Site Review: Vacuum Diagrams
SF Site Review: Titan

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Maddox

Millions of workers milling through corridors, looking alike, dressing the same, no specific leader, running on instinct and pheromones just like an ant hill. But the denizens of the underground crypt are not insects. They are humans.

Coalescent, Stephen Baxter's latest work, continues his fascination with human development that he explored in Evolution and prophesized in The Time Ships. This time he asks the question "What would happen if a group of humans sealed themselves off from society for about 80 generations?" Would they still be human, or would they be evolving into something... different?

But is it possible that a new species of human can develop, cut off from regular society and given the right circumstances? Scientific posturing aside, Coalescent is a gripping read. George Poole, a middle-aged British man whose life is going nowhere, makes a surprising discovery when his father dies. His twin sister whom he never knew is living somewhere in Rome at The Puissant Order of Holy Mary Queen of Virgins, a mysterious cult that has been around for centuries. With the help of his bizarre friend Peter McLachlan, George sets out to find his sister and unravel a past that stretches back to the days of the Emperors of Rome.

The story jumps back and forth between George and his distant ancestor Regina, a young girl who lived in England during Ancient Rome's decline, but had to flee as the Emperor's power on the Isles dwindled. Her life, a series of uprooting and running, is tragic and compelling. In her quest to keep her family together, she sets events in motion that will result in an entirely new, divergent form of humanity.

The stories, though in different times, are equally compelling. The reader gets sucked into George's story and is almost upset when Regina's interrupts it next chapter, but her story is so equally engrossing it makes for a read one just can't put down.

Coalescent is part of an upcoming series entitled the Destiny's Children books, in which Baxter will continue this train of thought on what these new humans will mean to the universe. There's even a brilliant futuristic tease at the end suggesting things to come.

Baxter continues to prove that he has phenomenal insight into humanity, giving us not only an inspired book, but more to think about in regards to our own evolution. Coalescent is a stand alone read but, like all great novels, leaves the reader wanting more.

Copyright © 2004 David Maddox

David Maddox
Science fiction enthusiast David Maddox has been many things, including Star Trek characters and the Riddler in a Batman stunt show. He holds a degree in Cinema from San Francisco State University, and has written several articles for various SF sites as well as the Star Wars Insider and the Star Trek Communicator. He spends his time working on screenplays and stories, acting on stage and screen and giving tours at Universal Studios Hollywood.

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