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Coalescent Hardcover – December 2, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; First Edition edition (December 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345457854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345457851
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,670,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Known for his hard SF, Baxter (the Manifold trilogy) explores social and historical issues as well as human evolution in the first of his Destiny's Children trilogy, with mixed results. In the present, George Poole discovers that he has a twin sister who belongs to a mysterious, ancient quasi-religious order in Rome; in crumbling post-Roman Britain, Regina, founder of the order, longs to recapture the days of her girlhood, when she lived a life of stability and privilege. In alternating chapters, George and Regina each make their way to Rome. George meets his sister and begins to learn something of the order that took her in; Regina-complex, bitter, obsessive-crafts the order that lasts to George's day. Regina digs under the streets of Rome into catacombs for secure living space. George, distantly related to Regina, feels the familial pull of the women still living in the warrens underground, but when he befriends a young, pregnant member of the order, he realizes that they have evolved into a new life form, a coalescent one comprising drones working within a decentralized social order. Regina's carefully researched world never quite comes to life-Baxter tells rather than shows-and the feminist implications of a coalescent life form that exploits and alters femininity are not addressed. Still, Baxter provokes thought by plausibly creating specific circumstances that result in evolution. For now, it's unclear whether a coalescent structure is good or bad, though presumably later books will provide some resolution.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Baxter connects the lives of George Poole in the present and Regina at the end of the Roman empire. George's father has just died, and the picture of a girl, Rosa, comes to light in his effects. Rosa is the mysterious twin George never knew, and he becomes consumed with the desire to find her. Regina's part of the story begins in Britain at the end of Roman rule and takes her through the western empire's collapse to Rome itself. Back to the near-past: George's sister, it develops, had been sent to the Order of Mary, Queen of Virgins, which has existed, hive-like, in Rome since the time of Regina, one of its founders. George is Regina's descendant, and the order being rather a family affair, George arrives at many uncomfortable realizations as he learns more about it. Opening with an artificial anomaly discovered in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune and ending with disturbing extrapolation of humanity's future, Coalescent is a fabric of many slowly developed plot threads woven into a tight tapestry. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Alex Tolley on February 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I liked this book more than some of the other reviewers. The theme clearly extends from his earlier works, most notably, Evolution. In this case the pace is slower, as our 2 protagonists, one in the ancient Roman empire, and the other contempory, spin the texture of the novel. The central concept, the evolution of a human hive species, while not original, is reasonably, if a little implausible biologically, characterized. More importantly, we are given a rationale for its existence and structure. We are are also given tantalizing clues as to where Baxter may want to go with this idea. In one case, the hive engineers the destruction of a another, nearby. In the second, we see a vignette of a familiar Baxterium universe where hive societies have spread out to the stars.
The book is weakest with its side plot of the discovery of an alien artifact in the Kuiper belt, and the possible suggestion of detection of a photino bird. I sense that Baxter wants to ensure the threads of his Xeelee sequence are incorporated into the plot, but in this book, the first of a promised series, this thread seems gratuitious. Perhaps the following novels will expand on this backdrop.
As other reviewers have argued, the hive is a living cellular automata. Because the rules for this particular hive were created by a founder, there is the possibility of exploring other structures based on different rules, defined by different constraints. Given the space of viable possibilties, one can easily see this idea expand like another "Manifold".
In summary, this book is a solid read, which entertained this reader with an interesting theme, painted against a detailed historical backdrop. I look forward to more in the series.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Seachranaiche on August 17, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I think there were, possibly, three different books within "Coalescent": an historical story of Regina and her ancestor George, a speculative science story of emergent organizational systems, and some futuristic space story. That these were all combined into one book is a shame, but I don't blame Baxter-not really-I blame his publisher. I have not read anything by Baxter that I didn't think was great or extremely thought provoking (including this book) but I have been noticing the bastardization of great plots lately, all for the sake of marketing, I presume, such that seemingly unrelated stories can be hacked together into a profitable series (to see this trend run amok, read anything by John Ringo). It is hard for me to believe that authors are incorporating these devices into their books on their own.You can always tell when your favorite author has been co-opted-their books begin to be released in $25.00 hardcover editions (do you all remember when Weber's Honor Harrington books only came out in very affordable paperback editions?) Alas, though, in order to be able to accumulate enough reading material to wile away our hours, allowances must be made.

For the first story in "Coalescent", the historical story, I became engrossed-I could not put the book down. This was a fascinating historical story with no apparent connection to the science-fiction genre (until the bastardization occurred), but I became caught up in the story and I didn't care that it wasn't science-fiction. Baxter recreates the soon-to-collapse world of Roman Britain brilliantly through the eyes of the young girl Regina, and all of the hints of collapse are right there, within Regina's childish interpretations of the events affecting her life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bugbear on April 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ah Stephen, what have you done? I found this book mostly disappointing. Yes it does come together in the end so to speak but the end could have come sooner with the elimination of about one third of the entire novel. Although Regina's story sets the background there was just way too much of it and it could have been handled in much shorter form. I also didn't like how Daniel appeared to be a key part of the story and then he vanishes, showing up for a cameo at the end. Throw in the fact that young Daniel just happens to be able to hack in to hospital computers and what not and well, it's all a little silly.

S.B. is a brilliant author but this is certaintly nowhere near his usual efforts. 2 stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Moran on June 21, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Baxter has distinguished himself by writing novels that work well as meditations on particular aspects of science and history but are somewhat lacking in character development and other traditional literary criteria. Here his subjects are civilization and society. While it does not quite come together, its an interesting and thought provoking read.

The first part of the double narrative centers on George Poole, a depressed and alienated everyman who discovers when his father dies that he apparently had a twin sister who was given to a mysterious Order when he was very young. Poole is completely disconnected from society. He has only one moderately good friend, from work. He is divorced. He is talented but his skills as a software analyst who tests and finds flaws in programs is increasingly devalued by the industry, which is interested in moving new products to market as soon as possible. Lacking any other driving motivation, he reunites with an eccentric childhood friend -- who would probably be welcomed into the ranks of the lone gunmen -- in search of his lost twin.

The second narrative is the story of George's distant relative, Regina, who is born around the time the Roman Empire begins withdrawing from Britain and dies in Rome in 476, the year most often used to mark the "fall" of the Western Empire. (Although by this time the capital had been moved to Ravenna, a point Baxter ignores). Regina, a spoiled young girl from a wealthy British family, is forced to become a self-reliant peasant farmer as the last of the Roman legions depart and Britain descends into barbarism. The portrait of post-Roman Britain is compelling and the interlude involving King Arthur (yep that King Arthur) is relatively original.
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