Evolution begins 65 Million Years ago when the comet which ended the reign of the dinosaurs on Earth was as bright in the sky as the sun. Baxter shows us the “lifestyle” of some of the late Cretaceous reptiles & birds from the “point of view” of the first primates—mousy little fur balls which hid from the thunder lizards by burrowing underground in the forests. Baxter names each animal we encounter—again, as the primates would see them—to give us a sense of the primates' existence and “state of mind”—as simple as some of those early minds were. This interesting technique allows the reader to partly identify with what occurs to these creatures on their road to modernity. We experience what it means to be human by what it meant to be each of these creatures in an ever changing environment.
In essence, Evolution is a story of existence, adaptation, survival and extinction. By the time we get to what we may call modern humanity—around the time of the fall of the Roman Empire—we see how humanity's potential to become more than “just another animal fighting for survival” lies in our ability to cooperate and inhibit our more competitive, territorial and destructive natures. As humans fill the ecosystem like swarms of insects—something Baxter points out drove us away from our primate origins and into a much too complex existence—there needs to be created a new way of living, for the ways of old have depleted the earth's resources, severely altered the atmosphere, polluted the land and water, and sent to their extinction hundreds and thousands of species of animal.
Baxter spends very little time in the present and near future, a time when Earth finally fights back against the human “virus” and humanity collapses upon, and in spite of itself. The concluding chapters take us 50 to 500 million years into the future to where we learn what life post-humanity might be like. Humans themselves, that is the descendents of the few survivors of the 21st Century, have de-evolved as survival becomes more important than the Big Brained lofty goals and achievements of their ancestors. Indeed, post-humanity primates live in a much healthier ecosystem.
This report prepared by Barry F. Seidman
Del Rey, Feb 2003, 25.95, 595 pp.
In 2031, the latest save the earth ecology conference is ironically being held in Darwin, Australia. The global climatic destruction threatens Homo Sapiens' domination of the planet and the nearby orbs. While forests burn out of control and pollution holds sway, the enormous Rabaul Volcano erupts. Mankind's reign seems nearly through while the Martian robots have now replicated themselves.
Terrorists attack the conference as attendees discuss the battles for supremacy through the ages with the victors goes the spoils until primates evolve during the Tertiary Period. Ultimately apes leave the trees for life on the ground until they build high rises. Now in the year 2031, Earth is on the brink with the volcano being the final straw to end humanity's dominion. Mars appears as the next evolutionary step as machines that replicate establish colonies throughout the galaxy.
This book reads more like short story vignettes than a novel, but fans of Stephen Baxter and anyone who relishes a deep look at evolution and devolution will want to read this epic. Mr. Baxter is at his best when he describes prehistorical winners and losers and speculates on the future devolution of the primate on earth. Though another form of evolutionary supremacy, the robot revolution seems to belong in a more science fiction realm than the speculative fiction employed throughout EVOLUTION. Another triumph for Mr. Baxter who has evolved into best-selling specie that Darwin would have enjoyed reading the author's works.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner