Stephen Baxter: Evolution



No exceptionSpoilers aheadThe frame story concerns Joan Useb a paleontologist who in 2031 has organized a major interdisciplinary conference with the covert goal of sparking a movement to do something effective about saving the biosphere The only amusement to be found in the frame story are the nasty Tuckerizations of two well known THIS is LIFE Anybody interested in the WHY at all should read this book Baxter excells himself by describing the roots of humanity and the hardship of our ancestors on the way obtaining self awarenessI haven t seen anything better regarding the origins of intelligence You will recognize the chaptersAbsolutely recommended I had put off reading this book for years because while I ve enjoyed many of Stephen Baxter s novels the idea of wading through 750 pages of the story of human evolution narrated by anthropomorphised primates really didn t appeal The ape creatures in the last and weakest part of his TimeSpaceOrigin trilogy had put me offMy bad This is really nothing less than a story of how we became human of nature red in tooth and claw It s a story of short and brutal lives of disease murder rape and war and yet at the same time for me at least and I can understand how this would not be a universal reaction it was curiously uplifting Beginning 65 million years ago with a small rat like primate through whose eyes we see the aftermath of the asteroid impact which in Baxter s universe at least wiped out the dinosaurs the book moves us slowly towards the present day Even the bits which ought not to have worked the flights of fancy in which Baxter speculates about dinosaurs surviving in the Antarctic until 10 million years BCE and the enormous pterosaurs with the 100 metre wingspans I thought actually worked well not least in driving home how incomplete the fossil record is and how much we do not and cannot ever know though one has to read carefully to be sure what he is making up and what is based on sound science passing references to animals that left no traces being the only clues in placesOther highlights The woman who runs away from the hunter gatherer community in which she grew up to escape the inevitable forced infanticide of her child stumbling into one of humanity s earliest towns the story of the monkeys that somehow survived a crossing of the Atlantic on a fallen tree and populating South America the tale of an encounter between two human children and one of the very last surviving Neanderthals and the three characters hunting for fossil bones amidst the crumbling ruins of the late Roman EmpireAnother move I was sceptical about until I read it was the decision to extend the story into the future Baxter does deep time about as well as any author I ve read and for all that it moves the story from scientifically grounded narrative to speculation it helps to emphasise that we are merely one small part of a much longer and bigger story not the culmination of some great master plan That millions of years from now our distant descendants might easily be as different from us as we are from our dinosaur age ancestors and that rather than being impossibly advanced hyper intelligent beings colonising the galaxy they might revert to a simpler way of life Even his explanation of how human civilisation ends emphasises that we are prey to powerful forces that we cannot control What does for humanity is not nuclear war global warming or a deadly virus grown in a laboratory but an enormous super volcano that disrupts the planet s weather systems enough to cause civilisation to collapse A big book and one stuffed with enough ideas to fill several novels. Humanity escape this fateA generation from today a group of concerned scientists distant descendants of that primitive Purgatorius gathers on a remote island to discuss this very uestion The ceaseless expansion of human civilization has triggered an urgent environmental crisis that must be solved now if the Earth is to survive as a place hospitable to human life But ust when a peaceful solution seems within reach two acts of shocking violence set in motion a cataclysmic chain of events that will expose the limitations of human intellect and adaptability in the face of the blind and implacable processes of Darwin’s dangerous idea From the Hardcover edition.

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This book reminded me in many ways of those Walking With Dinosaurs TV shows The book is broken up into sections each set in a different era So we focus on an early mammal here a proto hominid there and generally span a huge chunk of our planet s history from the earliest mammals to a distant speculative future and the eventual extinction of all life One might almost say that evolution itself is the protagonist of this novel And it is as novel not a textbook Parts of it are pure speculation though all based on the soundest and latest scientific discoveries as good SF should be I ve read my share of epic novels great sprawling timelines full of sweep and scope but I think Evolution may represent the single greatest timeframe of any that I ve read I found it to be a fascinating and engrossing read Having read Baxter s Manifold Time I wasn t expecting much characterization or plot as is the case in much hard sci fi Strangely some of the non human characters of Evolution were a lot real than some of the human ones If you liked the suid in ManifoldTime you ll probably like Evolution The book is longer than it had to be but the 15 or so stories were mostly worthwhile At times the genes working to survive theme was too explicit and overdone let the reader s intelligence do some work and was like reading Richard Dawkins than reading a novel but overall this was an engrossing and educational fictionalization of evolutionary history I liked the speculative parts which is why one should read sci fi after all the air whales intelligent dinosaurs post human descendents and especially the self replicating robots on Mars which provided a nice counter point to the story on Earth while strengthening the overall theme of evolution If you think evolution is the slightest bit interesting and have a bit of imagination I d recommend this book This is kind of different It doesn t have a plot It s essentially a series of short stories about the lives of various creatures on the evolutionary path to modern humans and beyond Said that way it doesn t sound very interesting but it kept my attention through all 800 pages Worthwhile I received this book as a gift and did not have high expectations but I was pleasantly surprised Baxter manages to novelise very effectively the course of evolution through billions of years which is no mean achievement The book is fact based though of necessity it does spin some extravagant speculation from those facts and in a few places those speculations are less than convincing such as the prehistoric Neanderthal shanty town outside the Homo Sapiens village Baxter writes about science in a very elouent and engaging way Where he consistently shows weakness is when he is writing dialogue This led me to skip through the stilted Roman chapter That said the later chapter about the British soldiers in an empty future England was uite haunting and I really liked the way he consistently found low key but satisfying conclusions to the various evolutionary vignettes A book that geniunely throws fresh perspective on the evolution of life I m glad I read it This is a series of episodes illustrating critical if imagined chapters in primate evolution It begins with a story about a primordial primate living underfoot while dinosaurs are stomping around works its way up to a brief episode about modern humans and then immediately wipes out the human race and moves forward The pre human episodes are meant to conform very closely to the fossil record Indeed when indulging in extreme flights of fancy Baxter provides explanatory bits as to why it s at least possible that his speculations ar. It’s the Im Not Millie! job of a science fiction writer to visualize extrapolations of the future But there are those who go far beyond venturing into realms of breathtaking science That kind of cutting edge talent is as rare as a supernova and in its own wayust as powerful Arthur C Clarke had it So did William Gibson Now with Evolution Stephen Baxter delivers what is sure to be one of the most talked about books of the year and shows once again why he belongs among the select company of science fiction writers who matterStretching from the distant past into the remote future from primordial Earth to the stars Evolution is a soaring symphony of struggle extinction and.

E consistent with current understandings I found the later post human episodes less believable although entertainingly imaginative Baxter leans very heavily on themes which are important and seldom considered That the process of evolution is brutal painful and uncaring that its outcomes are arbitrary that sexual drives and sexual conflict are at the root of every origin He presents all his subjects with the same tight focus and tries to narrate from within the head of even his most primitive characters This has left me months later with an altered perspective about the mice and suirrels that live under my feet In that respect I d say that this book was extremely effective although perhaps not in the way that was intended A good book but about 100 pages too long The author dramatized mammalian evolution from the time of the dinosaurs until a future hundreds of millions of years from now Having watched Cosmos this summer I have been thinking about the incomprehensible spans of time that have passed since the formation of the universe and since life began on this planet Evolution serves as a reminder of Salvation: A Novel (Salvation Sequence) just how brief our species time in the sun really has been and what remarkable arrogance human beings display when trying to explain the cosmos to each other Climate change volcanoes asteroids and cometsover the history of our world these events have hit the reset button over and over again Hundreds of thousands of species have come into being thrived then vanished into oblivion We are no different In the eyes of earth we are a minor flash in the pan In the eyes of the cosmos we are less than a speck of dust And when we are gonethere will come soft rainsA good and troubling book Bleak I guess but honest I was struck by how much of what I was reading about I had learned in college astronomy biology evolution etc but then forgot because they are not things that I really think about on a day to day basis Science keeps me very humble As a rollicking science fiction tale this book may leave the reader scratching their head It is a series of interrelated short stories and vignettes given from the viewpoint of creatures stretching back in time from the first tiny mammals to survive the impact which took out the dinosaurs to the present to the distant future when our planet is trashed and our sun has expanded to re absorb the EarthWhat this story does do clearly than all the snoozer science textbooks we were forced to read in high school and college is take the various critical turning points of evolution when some new adaptation or trait emerged to help our species evolve into the species we know of as homo sapiens today And each of those vignettes is interesting fully explained and will leave the lay reader with a thorough understanding of how we ended up where we are todayAnd then Baxterourneys into our futureWith the same thoroughness Baxter takes us through various plausibilities extrapolating the choices we are making as a species today to ignore environmental degradation civil unrest aggression and carries our species forward into the distant future building upon the framework he built in the first half of the book to get us where we are evolutionarily speaking today to show us where we are headed in the future and it is not prettyThis book stayed with me for a long time after I read it We re all screwed4 Evolutionary Monkeys In the musical 1776 Col Thomas McKean says of General Washington s reports from the field reporting everything that s gone wrong since the last report That man could depress a hyena This seems to be a fair comment on many of Baxter s books and Evolution is. Survival a dazzling epic that combines a dozen scientific disciplines and a cast of unforgettable characters to convey the grand drama of evolution in all its awesome majesty and rigorous beautySixty five million years ago when dinosaurs ruled the Earth lived a small mammal a proto primate of the species Purgatorius From this humble beginning Baxter traces the human lineage forward through time The adventure that unfolds is a gripping odyssey governed by chance and competition a perilous ourney to an uncertain destination along a route beset by sudden and catastrophic upheavals It is a route that ends for most species in stagnation or extinction Why should.

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