Destinys Children

A sequence of books by Stephen Baxter. They are a late addition to his Xeelee Sequence (i.e. he wrote the early books, spent ten years writing other things, then wrote these), but this is not a Foundation And Earth? scenario. It's not an attempt to link all his previous books together, and in fact the links to the main sequence can be fairly tangential. The novels in the sequence are:

There is also a fixup of related short stories, Resplendent, due in the autumn of 2006.

Destinys Children is possibly Baxter's most coherent sequence of books to date. The early Xee Lee novels--Raft, Timelike Infinity?, Flux, Ring, and the fixup Vacuum Diagrams?--primarily reflect isolated points in the immense timeline of that universe, to the point where the attempt to link up earlier installments, in Ring, feels rather forced. Similarly, the Manifold books--Time, Space, and Origin--start strong but falter at the final hurdle. (In that case the problem is more that Origin just isn't very interesting, at least compared to the first two books, than anything else.) And the less said about the Mammoth books, of course, the better.

In Destinys Children, by contrast, although each book stands more-or-less alone, the series as a whole has a strong thematic coherence. Each deals with evolutionary possibilities for humanity. The first book, Coalescent, is set primarily now and two thousand years ago. It is about the development of a eusocial society in catacombs under rome--or looked at another way, it is about the evolutionary pressures that arise from humanity considered as a family. The second book, Exultant, is set in the heart of the Xeelee Sequence, during the 25,000-year war humanity wages against those aliens. (It is perhaps Baxter's only true Space Opera.) It examines the evolutionary pressures that arise when the predominant mode of social organisation is military (indeed, a military deliberately working to retard evolutionary change).

At some point, Niall Harrison will write an essay about how and why Transcendent can be read as a sort of summation of Baxter's core concerns. For the purposes of this page, however, we only need to note that it is a novel about a bridge between the Near Future? and the Deep Future?, and that where the first two novels treat family and military, it treats religion. There is much in it reminiscent of Arthur C Clarke's Childhoods End? (in fact the novel is Baxter's first to be dedicated specifically to Clarke). It also has a killer first line: "The girl from the future told me that the sky is full of dying worlds."

There's an excellent article by Baxter about the genesis and writing of these books here: It explains why the books should not be confused with the work of a Popular Beat Combo?:

"Amid the mucking-about with contracts, publishers and agents that followed (I’m always happy to achieve a sale, of course) it emerged that the American marketeers didn’t like ‘Homo Superior’ as a title, for they imagined mid-westerners would think it had something to do with homosexuality. (I’m not making this up.) We bounced around alternatives and ‘Destiny’s Children’ was their choice, even though I felt it was a bit lame, and was worried I might get sued by Beyonce Knowles.

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