(2003) Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, £12.99, trdpbk, 473 pp, ISBN 0-575-07424-8
Having long been an admirer of Stephen Baxter's galaxy spanning epics, I was intrigued to find that Coalescent was more firmly rooted to Earth. The novel concerns two quests separated by 2000 years. In the present day George Poole is searching for a sister he had been unaware of until the death of his father. In the twilight of the Roman Empire, a woman starts her quest to preserve her family as Britain disintegrates without the Pax Romana. Both quests will ultimately lead to the same location in time and space, but their trajectories are disparate.
Baxter has succeeded again with a novel that is compelling for both strands, with the world of ancient Britain being particularly beautifully drawn. Baxter's success is not only based on a very clear and accessible style, but also on the detail he enriches the novel with. From the everyday life and brutality of the ancient world to modern day Rome and the obsessions of a sinister cult, the novel is packed with detail.
Coalescent is Book One of a new series called Destiny's Children, but this should in no way deter. The novel is self-contained and is easily digested on its own. There may be loose strands at the end, but the end was definitely the end and didn't leave me frustrated at a "cliff-hanger". Unusual, but well worthwhile.
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