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Transcendent (Destiny's Children Series #3)

Transcendent (Destiny's Children Series #3)

4.1 7
by Stephen Baxter

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Stephen Baxter’s gripping page-turners are feats of bold speculation and big ideas that, for all their time-and-space-spanning grandeur, remain firmly rooted in scientific fact and cutting-edge theory. Now Baxter is back with the final volume in his monumental Destiny’s Children trilogy, a tour de force in which parallel stories unfold–and then


Stephen Baxter’s gripping page-turners are feats of bold speculation and big ideas that, for all their time-and-space-spanning grandeur, remain firmly rooted in scientific fact and cutting-edge theory. Now Baxter is back with the final volume in his monumental Destiny’s Children trilogy, a tour de force in which parallel stories unfold–and then meet as humanity stands poised on the brink of divine providence . . . or extinction.


It is the year 2047, and nuclear engineer Michael Poole is still in the throes of grief. His beloved wife, Morag, died seventeen years ago, along with their second child. Yet Michael is haunted by more than just the memory of Morag. On a beach in Miami, he sees his dead wife. But she vanishes as suddenly as she appears, leaving no clue as to her mysterious purpose.

Alia was born on a starship, fifteen thousand light years from Earth, five hundred thousand years after the death of Michael Poole. Yet she knows him intimately. In this distant future, when humanity has diversified as a species and spread across the galaxy, every person is entrusted with the duty of Witnessing the life of one man, woman, or child from the past, recovered by means of a technology able to traverse time itself. Alia’s subject is Michael Poole.

When his surviving, estranged son is injured, Michael tries to reconnect with him–and to stave off a looming catastrophe. Vast reservoirs of toxic gases lie buried beneath the poles, trapped in crystals of ice. Now that ice is melting. Once it goes, the poisons released will threaten all life on Earth. A bold solution is within reach, if only Michael can convince a doubting world. Yet as Morag’s ghostly visitations continue, Michael begins to doubt his own sanity.

In the future, Alia is chosen to become a Transcendent, an undying member of the group mind that is shepherding humanity toward an evolutionary apotheosis. The Witnessings are an integral part of their design, for only by redeeming the pain of every human who has lived and died can true Transcendence be achieved. Yet Alia discovers a dark side to the Transcendents’ plans, a vein of madness that may lead to an unthinkable renunciation.

Somehow, Michael Poole holds the fate of the future in his hands. Now, to save that future, Alia must undertake a desperate journey into the past. . . .

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Stephen Baxter


“Utterly fascinating . . . constantly surprising . . . Coalescent reveals a new side to Baxter’s vast talent.”

“A gripping read . . . Baxter continues to prove that he has phenomenal insight into humanity, giving us not only an inspired book, but more to think about in regards to our own evolution.”
–SF Site

“[Baxter excels] at both action-packed storytelling and philosophical speculation.”
–Library Journal


“Baxter has an uncanny gift for mixing a punchy, cyberpunk cynicism with his resolutely hard SF story base. . . . [Exultant] rivals Asimov in its boundless vision for the future evolution of humanity.”
–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Striking . . . chilling . . . [with] a triumphant conclusion.”

“Technically brilliant and downright exciting.”
–SFX Magazine

The Barnes & Noble Review
In the third and concluding installment of his Destiny's Children trilogy (Coalescent and Exultant) -- a millennia-spanning epic that explores three possible evolutionary paths for humankind -- Stephen Baxter goes half a million years into a future where godlike post-humans still struggle with very human failings…

The aptly titled Transcendent is, in essence, a combination of two intertwining plot threads: One follows a mid-21st-century engineer named Michael Poole as he deals with the destabilization of the Earth's biosphere due to global warming; the other chronicles the life of Alia, a girl living hundreds of thousands of years in the future who has been chosen to become a Transcendent, one of the host of virtually immortal post-humans who govern all of humankind. Poole struggles with personal problems (the near death of his son and increasing visions of his dead wife) while trying to save humankind from itself, while Alia is instructed to look back on her species' distant past and contemplate its innumerable blunders before she can be Redeemed. The human life she witnesses is that of Poole...

Baxter has always had a penchant for sweeping sagas with weighty philosophical themes and challenging subject matter (like the Manifold trilogy: Manifold Time, Manifold Space, and Manifold Origin), and his ambitious Destiny's Children trilogy is speculative science fiction at its very best. Fans who enjoyed classics like Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy and Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama and The Fountains of Paradise will devour all three of these provocative, consciousness-expanding novels. In a word: heavy. Paul Goat Allen
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Set in the same vast time scale and future as Coalescent (2003) and Exultant (2004, both Del Rey), Transcendent can be read independently. Michael Poole is a middle-aged engineer in the year of the digital millennium (2047) and Alia is a recognizably human (but evolved) adolescent born on a starship half a million years later. Michael still dreams of space flight, but the world and its possibilities are much diminished due to environmental degradation. The gifted teen has studied Michael's life, for the Poole family played a pivotal role in creating the human future, and thus her world. Through seemingly supernatural apparitions, Alia bridges time to communicate with Michael as they determine the future of humanity. The Pooles are a troubled family, and readers will appreciate the conflict between Michael and his son as they are forced to find common ground in a struggle to reverse the final tipping point of global warming. Teens will also understand Alia's alarm, and her growing determination to choose her own destiny, when she is selected to join the Transcendents and is rushed into their unimaginable post-human reality. This is visionary, philosophical fiction, rich in marvels drawn from today's cutting-edge science. A typical paragraph by Baxter might turn more ideas loose on readers than an entire average, mundane novel does, but all this food for thought is delivered with humor and compassion. Experienced SF readers will enjoy sinking their teeth into the story, while general readers who have enjoyed near-future, science-based suspense novels such as those by Michael Crichton will discover here that science fiction can set a higher, much richer standard than what they've experienced before.-Christine C. Menefee, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Destiny's Children Series , #3
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.85(h) x 1.45(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The girl from the future told me that the sky is full of dying worlds.

You can spot them from far off, if you know what you’re looking for. When a star gets old it heats up, and its planets’ oceans evaporate, and you can see the clouds of hydrogen and oxygen, slowly dispersing. Dying worlds cloaked in the remains of their oceans, hanging in the Galaxy’s spiral arms like rotten fruit: this is what people will find, when they move out from the Earth, in the future. Ruins, museums, mausoleums.

How strange. How wistful.

My name is Michael Poole.

I have come home to Florida. Although not to my mother’s house, which is in increasing peril of slipping into the sea.

I live in a small apartment in Miami. I like having people around, the sound of voices. Sometimes I miss the roar of traffic, the sharp scrapings of planes across the sky, the sounds of my past. But the laughter of children makes up for that.

The water continues to rise. There is a lot of misery in Florida, a lot of displacement. I understand that. But I kind of like the water, the gentle disintegration of the state into an archipelago. The slow rise, different every day, every week, reminds me that nothing stays the same, that the future is coming whether we like it or not.

The future, and the past, began to complicate my life in the spring of 2047, when I got an irate call from my older brother, John. He was here, in our Miami Beach house. I should “come home,” as he put it, to help him “sort out Mom.” I went, of course. In 2047 I was fifty-two years old.

I had been happy in Florida, at my parents’ house, when I was a kid. Of course I had my nose in a book or a game most of the time, or I played at being an “engineer,” endlessly tinkering with my bike or my in-line roller skates. I was barely aware of the world outside my own head. Maybe that’s still true.

But I particularly loved the beach out in back of the house. You understand this was the 1990s or early 2000s, when there still was a beach in that part of Florida. I remember I would walk from our porch, with its big roof-mounted swing chairs, and go down the gravel path to the low dunes, and then on to the sandy beach beyond. Sitting there you could watch space shuttles and other marvels of rocketry from Cape Canaveral rising into the sky like ascending souls.

Mostly I’d watch those launches alone. I was out of step with my family over that one. But once, I believe around 2005, my uncle George, my mother’s brother visiting from England, walked out with me to watch a night launch. He seemed so stiff and old, barely able to make it down to sit on the scrubby dune grass. But I guess he was only in his forties then. George was an engineer, of sorts, in information technology, and so a kindred spirit.

Of course that’s all gone now, thanks to the Warming, the rising sea levels, the endless Atlantic storms; Canaveral is a theme park behind a sea wall. I guess I was lucky to be ten years old and able to watch such things. It was like the future folding down into the present.

I wonder what ten-year-old Michael Poole would have thought if he could have known what the girl from the future told me, about all those old and dying worlds out there waiting for us in space.

And I wonder what he would have thought about the Transcendence.

I think over those strange events, my contact with the Transcendence, one way or another, all the time. It’s like an addiction, something you’re aware of constantly, bubbling beneath the surface level of your mind, no matter how you try to distract yourself.

And yet I can remember so little of it. It’s like chasing a dream after waking; the more you focus on it, the more it melts away.

Here’s what I make of it now.

The Transcendence is our future—or a future, anyhow. A far future. The Transcendents had made (or will make) themselves into something unimaginably powerful. And now they were on the cusp, the cusp of a step to change into something new altogether.

After this point they would transcend to what we would think of as godhood—or they would subside to defeat, at the hands of a foe I barely glimpsed. Either way they would no longer be human.

But at this point, on this side of the cusp, they were still human. And they were tortured by a very human regret, a regret that had to be resolved now, before they proceeded and shed their humanity for good. This was what I was drawn into, this strange inner conflict.

Everybody knows about my work on the climate disaster. Nobody knows about my involvement in something much larger: the agonies of a nascent superhuman mind of the far future, in the culminating logic of all our destinies.

The future folding down into the present. That ten-year-old on the beach would probably have loved it, if he’d known. It still scares me to death in retrospect, even now.

But I guess even then I had my mind on other things. For the most remarkable thing I saw on that beach wasn’t a spaceship being launched.

The woman who came to the beach was slim and tall, with long, strawberry-blond hair. She would wave and smile to me, and sometimes call, though I could never make out what she said for the noise of the waves and the gulls. She always seemed to stand at the edge of the sea, and the sun was always low, so the sea was dappled with sunlight like burning oil, and I had to squint to make her out—or she would show up in some other equally difficult place, hidden by the light.

When I was a kid she visited occasionally, not regularly, maybe once a month. I was never frightened of her. She always seemed friendly. Sometimes when she called I would wave back, or yell, but the crashing waves were always too loud.

I would run after her sometimes, but running in soft wet sand is hard work even when you’re ten. I never seemed to get any closer, no matter how hard I ran. And she would shrug, and step back, and if I looked away she was gone.

It was only much later that I worked out who she was, how important she would become to me.

Uncle George never saw her, not during his one and only viewing of a spaceship launch from the beach. I wish he had. I’d have appreciated talking it over with him. I didn’t know much about ghosts when I was ten; I know only a little more now. George knew a lot of things, and he had an open mind. Maybe he could have answered a simple question: can you be haunted by spirits, not from the past, but from the future?

For, you see, the mysterious woman on the beach, who visited me intermittently all my young life, was another visitor from the future. She was Morag, my dead wife.

The future folding down into the present.

Meet the Author

Stephen Baxter is a trained engineer with degrees from Cambridge (mathematics) and Southampton (doctorate in aeroengineering research) universities. Baxter is the winner of both the British Science Fiction Award and the Locus Award, and has been a nominee for an Arthur C. Clarke Award, most recently for Manifold: Time. He has also won the John W. Campbell Award and the Philip K. Dick Award for his novel The Time Ships. He is the coauthor (with Arthur C. Clarke) of Time’s Eye and Sunstorm.

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Transcendent (Destiny's Children Series #3) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
Earth in the year 2027 is a different place to be due to the climatic changes the poles melted, the oceans rose and coastal flooding changes the geography of the planet. The planet seems to be in its death throes with levels of carbon dioxide and methane rising but scientist Michael Poole has devised a way to keep the gases that want to escape trapped way below the earth. While he and his fellow scientists are working on the problem, his wife Morag dead for seventeen year, keeps appearing to him. He wants to prove she is real and not a ghost. --- Fifty thousands years in the future Alia who lives on a space station Witnesses Michael (learning facets of his life from birth to death). Humanity is guarded by the Transcendence, superminds who are on the verge of singularity and are ready to take the next step in man¿s evolution. Yet something is holding them back from that they want Alia to join them and hope they can find the redemption to move on. Alia, who learns what being in transcendence is like is not sure that is the road she wants to travel but to save humanity, she must allow the transcendence to bend space and time so that she can find answers that only Michael Poole can supply. --- Told in alternating chapters from the point of view of Michael in the first person and Alia in the third readers get a close up look at humanity at two very different crossroads of its existence. This is a thought provoking exciting work of science fiction with visual description of radically different time frames that seem realistic to the audience. The finale to Destiny¿s Children trilogy is a very satisfying and enriching reading experience. --- Harriet Klausner