“Spectacular . . . What is astonishing is how . . . entertaining as well as informative this book—an episodic novel with evolution as its protagonist—manages to be.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“MAGISTERIAL AND UPLIFTING . . . A brilliant, grand-scale sampling of sixty-five million years of human evolution . . . It shows the sweep and grandeur of life in its unrelenting course.”
—The Denver Post
“Strong imagination, a capacity for awe, and the ability to think rigorously about vast and final things abound in the work of Stephen Baxter. . . . [Evolution] leaves the reader with a haunting portrayal of the distant future.”
—Times Literary Supplement
“A BREATH OF FRESH AIR . . . The miracle of Evolution is that it makes the triumph of life, which is its story, sound like the real story.”
—The Washington Post Book World
“A work of outrageous ambition. Baxter’s goal is nothing less than to dramatize the grand sweep of primate development. . . . Evolution is a cautionary tale, warning of the dire consequences to contemporary humans if we persist in behavior that threatens the survival of our ecosystem.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Baxter’s depictions are brilliant, with some inspired conjectures to spice up events. . . . I highly recommend Evolution. . . . [It] provide[s] food for thought, confronts our notions of what it means to be human, and gives warning that nothing can be taken for granted in the ongoing struggle for survival.”
“Baxter chronicles the epic survival of the mammalian family that ultimately ended up with us. . . . The sheer timescale makes a great story that is panoramic in extent. I felt I was watching Walking with Beasts rolled into The Human Journey. Baxter’s ability to turn science into exciting and readable fiction makes him one of the most accessible SF writers around.”
—The Times (London)
“The overall narrative [is] a big, thick, geophysical stick upside the head to remind us all that things can change, at any moment, for any reason.”
—The San Diego Union-Tribune
“I recommend this novel to anyone who appreciates novels that take chances. . . . Baxter is not shy about painting big pictures about big ideas. . . . [He] painstakingly moves us from the shrewlike creatures that coexisted with the dinosaurs through the walking, tool-using hominids of Africa, through Neanderthals, through humans, to an entirely speculative future that is beyond brief description.”
“A powerful fusion of science and imagination . . . Baxter makes an impressive job of putting flesh on to the bones of the scientific theory and in its imaginative vision Evolution deserves comparison with SF epics such as Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men or Alfred Doblin’s Mountains, Seas, and Giants. Baxter leaves you with a memorable yet unsettling sense of our insignificance in the scheme of things. In the story of evolution, as in all good thrillers, an extinction event is always lurking just around the corner.”
—The Guardian (London)
“A tour-de-force . . . A sprawling, ambitious chronicle spanning millennia . . . The account of the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction and the rise of mammals as the dominant life-form is particularly fascinating. . . . Similarly well crafted is Baxter’s projection of a posthuman future.”
“Taking a page from SF saga writers like Kim Stanley Robinson and Brian Stableford, British author Baxter portrays humanity’s origins, growth, and ultimate disappearance in a loose-knit series of brutal vignettes spanning millions of years of evolution. . . . The book rises above its fragmented narrative . . . to reach a grim and stoic grandeur, which clearly has humanity’s best interests at heart. Here is a rigorously constructed hard SF novel where the question is not whether humanity will reach the stars but how it will survive its own worst tendencies.”
“Highly recommended . . . Spanning more than sixty-five million years and encompassing the entire planet, Baxter’s ambitious saga provides both an exercise in painless paleontology and superb storytelling.”
The 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
Evolution, by Stephen Baxter, is a work of outrageous ambition. Baxter's goal is nothing less than to dramatize the grand sweep of primate development, beginning with a rodentlike Eve scrabbling for survival in the dinosaur-dominated forests of North America 65 million years ago and extending to an imaginary whimper some 500 million years in the future.
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. — Gerald Jones
Taking a page from SF saga writers like Kim Stanley Robinson and Brian Stableford, British author Baxter (the Manifold trilogy) portrays humanity's origins, growth and ultimate disappearance in a loose-knit series of brutal vignettes spanning millions of years of evolution. Beginning with the gritty slice-of-life tale of a small, ratlike proto-primate called Purga (short for species Purgatorius), the story travels from the end of the Cretaceous through the millennia as primates slowly evolve into creatures more and more recognizably human, learning to make and use tools, developing language and the ability to feel empathy-the trait that Baxter selects as definitive of true humanity. Resonating with that theme, the vignettes are linked by a thin near-future frame about scientists meeting in the midst of ecological and political chaos to find a way to save humanity from itself through the "globalization of empathy." More concerned with technical detail than character or plot, the book rises above its fragmented narrative and frequently repetitive violence to reach a grim and stoic grandeur, which (despite a tendency toward preachiness) clearly has humanity's best interests at heart. Here is a rigorously constructed hard SF novel where the question is not whether humanity will reach the stars but how it will survive its own worst tendencies. (Feb.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
As a group of scientists gathers in the South Pacific for a conference to save the human race from extinction, their actions represent the culmination of millions of years of struggle by their primate ancestors to survive in an ever-changing world. The author of the Manifold trilogy (Manifold: Time; Manifold: Space; Manifold: Origin) uses a modern-day story as a frame within which he relates a series of vignettes tracing the history of the evolution of intelligent life on Earth, from its mammalian beginnings in the Cretaceous era to the present. Spanning more than 165 million years and encompassing the entire planet, Baxter's ambitious saga provides both an exercise in painless paleontology and superb storytelling. Highly recommended for sf as well as general fiction collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Bulky assemblage-it's a stretch to call this a novel-of animated dioramas endeavoring to illustrate the story of primate evolution. The token frame here concerns the journey of two friends, paleontologist Joan Useb and primatologist Alyce Sigurdardottir, to attend a conference in Darwin, Australia, in 2031. The planet's ecology and climate are threatened, the huge volcano on nearby Rabaul is close to exploding-and to cap it all, terrorists attack the conference. Meanwhile, robots on Mars succeed in replicating themselves. Baxter (Icebones, 2002, etc.) intersperses this with dramatic paleontological reconstructions and speculations. Proto-primates beat the competition in the Cretaceous. Brainy dinosaurs, unknown in the fossil record, become extinct in the Jurassic. Primates evolve and adapt swiftly during the Tertiary. Monkeys arrive in the New World. Dinosaurs survive on Antarctica until ten million years ago. Five million years later, apes descend from the trees. Hand axes become popular about 1.5 million years ago. Politics, murder, and beer are invented before 10,000 b.c. Fifth-century Rome seethes with treachery. Finally, in 2031, the volcano explodes, devastating Earth. Mars, meanwhile, is eaten up by the replicating machines, which go on to colonize the galaxy. A millennium after the volcano, a group of British servicemen awaken from cryonic suspension to find that primitive post-humans have already lost the power of speech. Devolution, thereafter, continues rapidly. The last primates, half a billion years hence, subside with barely a gasp.
Infotainment: glum, dyspeptic, and depressing.