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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
It's 2031, and human-induced climate change is wreaking havoc on the earth and all its inhabitants. Mass extinction of species is occurring at a record pace. Major coastal cities are completely flooded; tens of millions of people are displaced. Civilization is crumbling. In large part due to the actions of humankind, the depleted and polluted earth is dying -- along with almost every organism that lives on it. The brightest scientists from around the world gather at an ecological conference to try and figure out a way to stop the imminent extinction event. Paleontologist Joan Useb has the answer, but it may already be too late.
With Useb's story as a loose framework for this epic Darwinian drama, Baxter goes back 65 million years to the Cretaceous period, when the ancestors of humankind were small, nocturnal, rodentlike creatures living in fear of predatory dinosaurs. Every million years or so, Baxter revisits the descendants of those early primates and follows the slow evolution of humankind from squirrel-like tree dwellers to tool-making hominids to the very first agriculturists. Then Baxter goes episodically 500 million years into the future. What humankind eventually evolves into is both tragic and, in an odd way, triumphant.
There are good books, there are great books, and there are Significant books -- profoundly powerful works that actually change the way a reader looks at the world. Stephen Baxter's Evolution is one of those rare novels that will touch readers on a much deeper, more permanent -- I daresay spiritual -- level. It's disturbing, depressing, chilling, and, in the end, compelling. Like Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt and Baxter's own Manifold trilogy (Manifold Time, Manifold Space, and Manifold Origin), Evolution examines where humans came from and what we could possibly evolve into. Ambitious, apocalyptic, and awe-inspiring, Evolution is a must-read if there ever was one. Paul Goat Allen