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Coalescent    by Stephen Baxter order for
by Stephen Baxter
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Ken Lux

Coalescent, first in the Destiny's Children trilogy, is another solid winner from Stephen Baxter. In this episode we meet modern day milquetoast George Pool as he rambles aimlessly through his life in London, trying to sell the house of his recently deceased, long widowed father. George's efforts take a turn for the strange when he reunites with a long lost childhood friend. They discover a forgotten photograph of George as a child with someone who appears to be a female fraternal twin. She is not his estranged older sister. Who can she be?

Now step back almost two thousand years, when we meet young Regina, living in Roman Britannia. Her time is one of great upheavals, both political and personal. Her family is torn asunder, expelling her from a life of leisure into a nightmare world where she needs great strength just to survive. Through her struggles, she sets forces into motion that have consequences not only in the time of her descendent, George, but beyond. And what of the Kuiper Belt anomaly hinted at as a player in Regina's childhood, and causing a scientific sensation in our time? Is it an exotic marvel or a pending catastrophe?

This book looks upon our social and cultural norms, asking if our evolutionary path is the best choice or just randomly convenient. Do other channels of evolution exist, of which we are unaware? And how the heck do you write a science fiction novel with so little science fiction?!? This saga goes a very long way in examining social and religious cultural modeling, and the stochastic process known as the 'coalescent', that presents a coherent statistical framework for analysis of genetic polymorphisms - but where are the spaceships, blasters and Moon Maidens? Be strong intrepid reader, for the ending of this story will spin your perceptions and leave you pining for the next instalment (I make no promises regarding Moon Maidens).

Coalescent is a powerful book in the finest tradition of Science Fiction. You can believe in and empathize with the characters, and as the story draws you in, disbelief is suspended. This one stays firmly on the shelf.

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