ISBN is

9780345457820 / 034545782X

Evolution

by

Publisher:Del Rey

Edition:Hardcover

Language:English

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About the book:

In Evolution, Stephen Baxter explores deep time to dramatise the story of Earth's evolving primates--from tiny shrew-like creatures dodging reptilian predators in the Cretaceous era, to humans of the 21st century and beyond.

The long drama starts with a bang: the Chicxlub meteor impact 65 million years ago--the dinosaur killer--bringing a holocaust of extinctions. Baxter describes that apocalyptic strike and aftermath in lurid, compelling detail.

By now the crater was a glowing bowl of shining, boiling impact melt, wide enough to have engulfed the Los Angeles area from Santa Barbara to Long Beach. And its depth was four times the height of Everest, its lip further above its floor than the tracks of supersonic planes above Earth's surface.

This book's hero is evolution itself, shaping surviving pre-humans into tree dwellers, remoulding a group that drifts from Africa to a (then closer) New World on a raft of debris, confronting others with a terrible dead end as ice clamps down on Antarctica. Elsewhere the river of DNA runs on, and ape-like creatures in North Africa are forced out of dwindling forests to stumble across grasslands where their distant descendants will joyously run.

Although the episodes resonate with one another, each is a separate triumph or tragedy whose early protagonists are uncomprehending animals ("He knew on a deep cellular level that..."). Darwin's imperatives force their successors to grapple with self-awareness, consciousness, memory, abstract thought. Tools emerge, and art, and language. One troubled genius of 60,000 years ago is seen inventing a theory of magic in hope of understanding and controlling the environment--and her contemporaries. Her reward is to become "the first person in all human history to have a name."

The story continues, and the apparent framing narrative--about a last-ditch global conference hoping to solve the ecological nightmares of 2031--is not the end. Baxter's final snapshot is 500 million years in our future....

Enormously ambitious in scope, Evolution shows the whole sweep and precariousness of pre-human and human development. We are so lucky to be here--although, as Baxter makes it clear, the luck may be running out. --David Langford

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