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Coalescent (Destiny's Children #1)

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  1,584 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Stephen Baxter possesses one of the most brilliant minds in modern science fiction. His vivid storytelling skills have earned him comparison to the giants of the past: Clarke, Asimov, Stapledon. Like his greatpredecessors, Baxter thinks on a cosmic scale, spinning cutting-edge scientific speculation into pure, page-turning gold. Now Baxter is back with a breathtaking adven ...more
Trade Paperback, 473 pages
Published October 2003 by Gollancz (first published 2003)
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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
...more
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
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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
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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.
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 ...more
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 ...more
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.
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.

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 ...more
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 ...more
José Monico
So I finally get my wish granted. Baxter has a book that is character-centralized, and wholly divided on any grand environment (e.g., theoretical space opera). This is a historical fiction piece divided into contemporary and past narratives. This series is quite comparable to Baxter's Time Tapestry. However, the former is tolerable, in that it is short.
I actually had to go to my bookshelf and see how much of this I had to endure. Unfortunately, my wish wasn't clear enough. Baxter just does not
...more
Peter Goodman
“Coalescent,” by Stephen Baxter (Del Ray, 2003). An oddity, although it still is well-written and well-observed. Ostensibly science fiction (and there is that), the bulk of the novel contains two parallel plots: the life of a woman as Roman Britain dissolves, and the life of a man, apparently one of her descendants, tracking down a long-lost sister in early 21st century England. Exceptional description of what it must have been like to experience the disintegration of a stable civilization: the ...more
John
At first this book seems like it might be connected to Baxter's 2006 novel "Emperor," despite the fact that this work predates it by a couple years. And it does, indeed, share Roman Britannia as one of its settings, as well as touching on the conflicts between Roman paganism and the early centuries of the Christian church. But that's where the similarities end. Instead, Baxter invites us to consider the possibility that a large enough human population, if sufficiently isolated, could evolve rapi ...more
Nicolas
Gros bouquin, au thème pourtant simple : le personnage principal découvre que sa famille est beaucoup plus étendue dans le temps qu'il ne pouvait le croire, mais aussi que son organisation sociale la rapproche pas mal d'une secte.
Bon, en fait, c'est plus compliqué et parfois plus spectaculaire que ça. mais, surtout, cet élément, qui est le coeur de l'intrigue, m'est passé complètement à côté, focalisé que j'étais sur le décor. Pourquoi ? simple : Rome. Rome, la ville éternelle ! Je me suis plong
...more
Mark Easter

Now, joined by his boyhood friend Peter McLachlan, who arrives in Rome with a dark secret of his own, George uncovers evidence suggesting that the women of the Order have embarked on a divergent evolutionary path. But they are not just a new kind of human. They are a better kind, genetically superior, equipped with all the tools necessary to render homo sapiens as extinct as the Neanderthals. And, chillingly, George and Peter soon have reason to fear that this colony is preparing to leave its ov

...more
Shane Kiely
This book is science fiction that doesn't really wear it's genre on it's sleeve. It's very much a soft science fiction story, not in the sense that it's scientifically inaccurate but more in that it concerns human society & social structures rather than any particular technology (though there are smatterings of physics in there). For much of it's run time it reads like historical fiction as one of the main plot threads concerns the era of the fall of the Roman Empire in the west. This altern ...more
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
...more
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 ...more
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. ...more
Ian
Many years ago, I remember Mark Plummer declaring that Stephen Baxter would be a good author to collect. What Mark clearly had not taken into account was the need for a very large room to hold such a collection. It’s not just that Baxter is prolific – 39 novels and 9 collections in 22 years – but also that most of his books are also huge. Coalescent – the first in a trilogy, natch, called Destiny’s Children – is one of these huge novels: the Gollancz hardback is 473 pages long. There are two mai ...more
Chen-song Qin
This book has an interesting premise, and it rides a wave of interest recently in science fiction about hive societies. However, as some other reviews have noted, the narrative skips around too much, and not in an orderly fashion either. It makes the book look like an attempt at several different stories that are tied together by a general theme. However, the author does not pull this off and only makes the whole thing seem scattershot.

As to the science content, it's rather far-fetched. I know o
...more
Vicki Doronina
This is not just one book, but loosely connected, two and a bit – a historical novel, a biological thriller and a science fiction short story – under one cover.

The historical novel is about a girl growing up in Britain in the 5th century A.D., while the Roman rule disintegrates. Now, I am not a fan of historical novels – when I’ve tried to read them a couple of times before, I’ve been disappointed by how modern the characters’ thinking was. And if I want to know about history, I’d rather read a
...more
David Malizia
I enjoyed this book enormously. A good part of is set really close to where I live in Rome and probably this made it feel extremely real. The story is extremely intelligent, well researched and plausible. Baxter knows his science well and also his history. The plot is extremely clever and unpredictable. For someone who doesn't live in Rome the details are extremely accurate. I found one single tiny mistake and that is really good.
David
Coalescent covers the progression of a divergence of the human genetic lineage from the falling of the Roman empire into modern times. This diverenge theatens the normal humans, as the new genetic offshoot behave as a hive and thus individuality is subsumed to the group. Facinating at times, I enjoyed the latter part of the book more. As the hive were mainly comprised of women, I kept on asking myself whether women could possibly change so much in 1500 years and I am unconvinced.

The book was als
...more
Richard
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pamela
There was a large leap in time in the final chapters, interwoven with the main storyline. The story all along jumped time here and there, but not quite as drastic as the ending, which felt out of place. It seemed like a ploy to get you to the next book in the series. Other than that I did enjoy reading the book. A few interesting ideas, some not fully fleshed out, perhaps in the next book? Hmm, I will likely read the next book, but after reading a few reviews, and what was encountered in the end ...more
Jasara
I'm debating with myself whether or not the author simply uses female reproduction and an inherent biological imperative to continue our genes, to demonstrate the theory of emergence; or as an anti-female perspective of a "hive" society successfully able to survive centuries needing men only as sperm-donors. Is this a story about evolution and emergence? Or a modern male's treatise on the frightening possibility that reproductive women can survive without more than their biological input? Read f ...more
Kieren Bonner
i really enjoyed this book i have been working through the entire xeelee sequence and this book really helped me grasp a deeper understanding of the universe that stephen baxter has built.
Todd
Not in the usual Baxter vein, and a little sloppy and disjointed as well. "Interesting enough to keep me reading" is about the most I can say about this book.
Beau
I really enjoyed this book and would have given it 5 stars. The only problem I had while reading it was that sometimes it would seem to drag on and on in particular scenes.

That said, I love the book and the way it moves from different time periods. The oldest era which described the founder of the Order was particularly fascinating.

Baxter explores a semi-secret Order of the Catholic church, how it originated, and describes how they evolved to resemble a colony of ants.

The last quarter of the boo
...more
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Stephen Baxter is a trained engineer with degrees from Cambridge (mathematics) and Southampton Universities (doctorate in aeroengineering research). Baxter is the winner of the British Science Fiction Award and the Locus Award, as well as being a nominee for an Arthur C. Clarke Award, most recently for Manifold: Time. His novel Voyage won the Sidewise Award for Best Alternate History Novel of the ...more
More about Stephen Baxter...

Other Books in the Series

Destiny's Children (4 books)
  • Exultant (Destiny's Children, #2)
  • Transcendent (Destiny's Children, #3)
  • Resplendent (Destiny's Children, #4)
Manifold: Time (Manifold, #1) The Time Ships Manifold: Space (Manifold, #2) Flood (Flood, #1) Ring (Xeelee Sequence, #4)

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