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Evolution by Stephen Baxter
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Evolution (2003)

by Stephen Baxter

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7841811,747 (3.65)27
Recently added byprivate library, kf10dr, Alexander_Holik, Gatore, skrivsm, quinaquisset
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  1. 10
    The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins (ronakmsoni)
    ronakmsoni: Both these books look at the beauty of evolution, one from the medium of fiction and one from that of science. And, to be honest, both books succeed in giving us an impression of what a beautiful and great thing natural selection is.
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» See also 27 mentions

English (17)  Galician (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
As a rollicking science fiction tale, this book may leave the reader scratching their head. It is more 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 Earth.

What this story -does- do more 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 today.

And then Baxter journeys into our future...

With 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 pretty.

This book stayed with me for a long time after I read it. We're all screwed!!!

4 Evolutionary Monkeys ( )
  Anna_Erishkigal | Mar 29, 2014 |
99.9% of all species that have ever existed are now extinct. What if anything makes us special? And what does the future hold for us a species?

This novel tackles those questions in an ambitious 600+ collection of chronological vignettes. These cover the proto-simian creature Purgatorius, early primates like notharctus, hominids such as australopithecines & Homo erectus, Neanderthals, modern day humans, and imagined future possibilities for our kind. There's plenty of scientific exposition and speculation to mull over on the long journey. (Also generous amounts of sex and violence, but I suppose that's par for the course.)

PS: I found the description of the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction (the one that got the dinosaurs) to be particularly riveting. Several theories exist regarding the cause, but Baxter goes with the most popular scenario: asteroid impact. Those who like apocalyptic fiction should particularly enjoy this chapter. ( )
  saturnloft | Aug 23, 2013 |
In a word, depressing. Baxter evidently has no faith in life of any kind, as he depicts all sentient beings as immediately impacting their environment in the most destructive manner possible. He doesn´t consider that there were ever communities (human or otherwise) that were able to exist sustainably with the environment. Or maybe he just ignores them since they don´t fit into his altogether pessimistic worldview. The encounters with predator after predator became absurd after awhile, and were tiresome before that. There was one episode spanning about 3 pages where a post-human escaped her homicidal "cousins" in the trees, ran into a giant rat-beast on the forest floor, and escaped into the tree-tops only to be plucked by a giant finch. I get the point Mr. Baxter: animal existence is perilous.

The problem with a book that only considers humanity from a species perspective is that you don´t take into account perhaps life´s most incredible achievement: individuality. Baxter´s unconvincing proposal that perhaps it´s not too bad to lose our intellect and become enslaved to giant rats or killer trees (afterall, they protect our survival as a species) completely disregards everything important about human nature. A purely biological view of evolution misses the possibility that the mind is the true launchpad for the next evolutionary step.

The "afterword" which explains that most of the book may not even be based on fact would have been useful as a foreword. It was difficult to tell how much of his book Baxter intended to be taken as fact, a confusion which I imagine was intentional. That makes it all the stranger when you have him inventing things like air whales and whip-wielding dinosaurs. He seems to want to have his book be two different things at the same time, but ends up de-legitimizing the fact and shafting the fiction. Ultimately, as a human being, the most interesting parts for me were the stories about all of the pre- and immediately post-humans, stories which only occupied about 200 of the 600 pages. The rest of the stories of primates and rats and mole-people just got kind of boring. Imaginative to be sure, but repetitive.

Last but by no means least annoying was Baxter´s bizarre fixation on excrement, especially feces. What began as an interesting documentation of animal behavior became downright strange when he moved into the human societies and people were still excreting all over the place, every few pages. I feel bad for him, because in the world Baxter apparently inhabits, every living person and animal he knows shits and pisses themselves when frightened, hurt, or dying. It must be a stinky existence he leads. ( )
  blake.rosser | Jul 28, 2013 |
I got through about 100 pages of this book, but lost the will to continue. The novel goes back to the time of the dinosaurs and we are presented with animals with names, back stories and a family life; not my cup of tea. ( )
  Tifi | Apr 12, 2012 |
I'm sorry to say that I'm not going to finish this book. It started out just fine, but after only a few pages I began to struggle. The book reads a little bit like a documentary. And in most cases documentaries are ok to watch for as long as there is nothing more interesting to do or read. It isn't like the book is badly written, it just couldn't appeal to me!
  Moriquen | Sep 18, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
To say that Baxter's reach exceeds his grasp is to state the obvious. What is astonishing is how successfully he brings to life a wide range of facts and conjectures, and how entertaining as well as informative this book -- an episodic novel with evolution as its protagonist -- manages to be.
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephen Baxterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wood, AshleyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Judging from the past, we may safely infer that not one living species will transmit its unaltered likeness to a distant futurity. And of the species now living very few will transmit progeny of any kind to a far distant futurity.

- Charles Darwin
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859)
Dedication
To Sandra, again,
and to the rest of us, in hope of long perspectives
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As the plane descended toward Darwin it ran into a cloud of billowing black smoke.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Please help LibraryThing by identifying which version of the many Evolution titles your copy of this work is. For instance, provide the editor's name; put [DVD] after the title; or identify the publisher's series.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345457838, Mass Market Paperback)

Following up his cosmic Manifold series, Stephen Baxter peers back on a more prosaic history in the worthy yet uneven Evolution. The book is nothing less than a novelization of human evolution, a mega-Michener treatment of 65 million years starring a host of smart, furry primates representing Homo sapiens's ancestry. Each stage of our ancestry is represented by a character of progressively increasing intelligence, empathy, and brain size, who must survive predation and other perils long enough to keep the natural-selection ball rolling. While Baxter carefully follows some widely accepted theories of evolution--punctuated equilibrium, for instance--he also strays from the known in postulating air whales and sentient, tool-wielding dinosaurs. And why not? There's nothing in the fossil record to contradict his musings about those things, or about the first instances of mammalian altruism and deception, which he also lets us observe. From little Purga, a shrewlike mammal scurrying under the feet of ankylosaurs, all the way through Ultimate, the last human descendant, Baxter adds drama and a strong story arc to our past and future. But he spends too much time on details of the various prehumans' lives, which can become repetitive: fight, mate, die, ad infinitum. And readers eager for a science-fictional adventure will only find satisfaction in the posthuman chapters at the end. Despite these flaws, Evolution grips the attention with an epoch-spanning tale of the random changes that rule our genetic heritage. Recommended. --Therese Littleton

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:02 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Now available in paperback -- an awe-inspiring epic that covers an astonishing 165 million years, and dramatizes the amazing sweep of humankind's evolution from the far past to the distant future.

» see all 2 descriptions

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