Transcendent by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There's a lot to love about this novel even though I have a few quibbles. My issues are purely personal in nature and do not reflect an actual fault in the novel, however.
First, the good:
We're split in the action between the digital new year coming up for us in about 25 years, at a time when Michael Poole has a stalled career and is still trying to overcome personal tragedy. The worldbuilding at this time is pretty awesome. Sentient houses and landscapes, severe environmental guilt that has led to us giving up cars in favor of virtual, and an extremely pragmatic outlook when it comes to recording genomes as so many species die.
Fast-forward half a million years in the future. Far beyond the conflict with the Xeelee, so many branches of humanity live and diverge and come back together again. Interestingly, the feel of this is very close to Olaf Stapledon's brilliant future history explorations, dealing with big species and existential issues in such a broad, astronomical space-and-time sense that I can't help but be awed by it.
Humanity has become as diverse and interesting as we could have hoped, adapted to any and all kinds of environments, developed symbiosis with alien biologies, techs, and even AIs. Some are undying, having lived a truly vast amount of time. Some are focused entirely on transcendence.
Interestingly, individuals in this far future are given the chance to be the ultimate observers for individuals in any portion of history. The MC in the future observes the MC of the past. Loves him. Feels his pain. And she is offered the opportunity to join the vast collective consciousness (augmentation) of the Transcendence.
The direction the transcendence takes is one of guilt and suffering, reliving every individual of humanity, of whatever flavor, and feeling their pain.
Yeah. Well, that's kinda the point of the novel, too, and it's rejected as the faulty logic it is. I'm not complaining about that. I'm only complaining that such an entitled future of humanity should fall into that trap in the first place.
But then, we've always fallen into worse, haven't we? lol
Even so, the novel is fascinating and filled to the brim with great ideas and techs and it falls into the full future history that Baxter has painstakingly built up. It's pretty amazing.
This novel does NOT need to be read in any particular order with any of the others. In fact, I might recommend it for anyone new to the SF mythos. :)
View all my reviews