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Literature: Evolution
Evolution is a novel by Stephen Baxter spanning 645 million years of Earth's history, with most chapters focusing on 65 million years ago to 30 million years in the future. The book is split into three parts: Ancestors, which focuses on various director ancestors to humans, starting with a ratlike animal that coexisted with the dinosaurs, Humans, which depicts various turning in human development, and Descendants, which is set After the End.


This book provides examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Yorick: Mother digs out her child's skull and cradles it, later she starts using it as a totem to gain influence over her tribe.
  • And the Adventure Continues: A flashforward mentions another planet that was seeded by the last life on Earth.
  • After the End: Due to the timescale of the books, many chapters could qualify, but the Descendants section is the most obvious from a human perspective.
  • Apocalypse How: Several categories.
    • Class 3a: Natural Human Extinction: Begins to happen in the 2031 segments, when a supervolcano explodes before the humans get a chance to undo the damage done to the environment.
    • Another 3a happens to the intelligent dinosaurs from "The Hunters of Pangea". It may have been hastened by the decision of the protagonist to kill the matriarch of the diplodocus herd that they depend upon, but at that point she was aware that they were doomed.
    • Class 4: Biosphere Extinction: Several. The extinction of the dinosaurs is described in detail, as is the effects of humans on the diversity. There is also mention of an asteroid impacting 30 million years from now.
    • Class 5: Planetary Extinction and Class 6: Planetary Desolation: In the flash-forward near the end of the book, the planet gets so hot that only bacteria are able to survive, then so hot that nothing can survive.
    • Class X: Planetary Annihilation: Mars gets it from some self-replicating robots that humans sent to Mars soon before dying out. The robots go on to create a civilization that lasts much, much longer than humanity did. In the flash-forward mentioned above, the Earth is also destroyed by the dying Sun.
  • Artistic License - Paleontology:
    • While most of the time Baxter gets the science right, and the speculative leaps he takes are somewhat within the bounds of plausibility, a few examples must be mentioned. First of all, in the story about the sapient Ornitholestes, he mentions that the only evidence humans had of these species is the disappearance of sauropods in the Late Jurassic, since the sapient species bones and technology are too fragile to preserve. Problem is, sauropods didn't go extinct in the Late Jurassic, not even in the Northern Hemisphere. There were as many sauropods infesting North America in the Early Cretaceous as there were in the Late Jurassic, including Astrodon, Sauroposeidon, and Sonorasaurus.
    • However there was a mass-extinction at the end of the Jurassic that claimed the dominant Jurassic sauropods, and the sauropods referred to in that story were all Diplodocus, which did go extinct then. The phrase was 'the disappearance of the giant sauropods'. This could easily have meant just those specific species, not sauropods in general.
    • The story about primates coming to North America has some anachronism and Misplaced Wildlife in it too. Not only does it have indricotherid rhinos (native only to Asia), camels (who were only found in North America at this time), and such, it has gastornid birds inhabiting Oligocene-Miocene Africa...yes, even after these animals were supposed to have died out in the middle Eocene.
    • In addition, the story involving Purgatorius has some flaws too. While Baxter does get it right by cloaking his troodonts in feathers, he leaves them off his dromaeosaurs. To add insult to injury, he makes the raptors cold-blooded, despite the fact that raptors are the very dinosaurs which ignited the cold blood, warm blood debate. In fact, even paleontologists who doubt endothermy in ornithischians and sauropods don't deny that raptors were most likely endothermic. And then there are the Giganotosaurus and Suchomimus in North America. Not only are these animals in the wrong place (Giganotosaurus was from South America, Suchomimus from Africa), but they are from the wrong time, both species were from the Early Cretaceous.
      • The Giganotosaurus in that story was no less implausible that any of the other speculations not directly supported by fossil evidence Baxter uses, namely that a giganotosaur species whose fossil remains had not been found by modern human paleontologists, descended from the known early Giganotosaurus finds, survived to the end of the Cretaceous and migrated to North America across the land bridge between North and South America when it formed in the late Cretaceous. Similarly the Suchomimus is a not implausible speculation that a member of that particular family did in fact live in North America, though only fossils from the African branch of the family have so far been found. This is certainly possible since similar pairs of "sister taxa" in North America and Africa are known for many other dinosaur families, and the origins of these families date back to when North America and Africa were connected.
  • Artistic License - Astronomy: While it's true the Sun gets brighter with time and that increasing brightness will mess so much with Earth's climate that will cause the eventual extinction of life and loss of oceans much before it goes into red giant mode, the Sun that will shine 500 million years in the future, when the last chapter of the book takes place, will not be very different of the current one in size and luminosity and not the ferocious one Baxter describes, at least if stellar evolution models are right. See [1]
  • Author Tract: Many interesting ideas are pushed aside by Baxter promoting his specific sociological views.
  • Bittersweet Ending: All the primates are dead, along with all life on Earth, and all recognizable traces of humans are long gone, but they're succeeded by a mechanical civilization, and bacteria from Earth seeded life on new worlds.
  • Blessed with Suck: The transparent killers (no further taxonomy given) are blind, inefficient and very susceptible to cancer. All of them die before reaching adulthood. But that's okay, because they catch meat for their siblings.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Through the book, actions of infanticide, rape and genocide of other tribes and people are given the motivation of survival and passing the genes to the next generation, with all its cold logic explained.
  • Corrupt Church: Religion is depicted as the creation of a manipulative woman wielding her dead son's memory as a weapon in a bid to gain political power.
    • On the other hand, religion is shown to have also a positive impact on the tribe since its teachings improve the quality of life of its members and bring unity to them.
  • Downer Ending: Many resolutions to the individual chapters. The novel itself ends with the death of the last primate to reproduce, and might count depending on whether you care about bacteria seeding new life or robot civilizations.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Or monkey-like ancestors to both monkeys and apes.
  • Giant Flyer: The air whale, a giant pterosaurs that lives in the stratosphere and leaves no fossil evidence behind.
  • Just Before the End: "A Far Distant Futurity" set 500 million years into the future, when the continents of earth have merged into a hot, flat, dry supercontinent that resembles the surface of Mars, and life is on the decline. "The Last Burrow", "Last Contact", "The Dying Light" and the epilogue also count, for the end of the polar dinosaurs, Neanderthals, Ancient Rome, and humanity respectively.
  • Kill It with Ice: The very last polar dinosaurs are slowly frozen to death by Antarctica's glaciation.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. Boy, do they ever. There are few chapter where the author does not go into gratuitous detail about excrement, urine and/or raging erections.
  • No Pregger Sex: Averted, one of the stories deals with a pregnant 17 year old girl that offers herself sexually to a Dirty Old Man with a fetish for pregnant women in exchange for sparing the life of her child.
  • Ragnarok-Proofing: averted. Very little remains of human civilization except fossils and some very durable structures such as an artificial cave or a gorge excavated to build a road.
  • Scenery Porn: The world is much more developed and interesting than the characters.
  • Scenery Gorn: After many vivid descriptions of the world of the dinosaurs, both in the late Jurassic and the late Cretaceous, the destruction of that world is described just as vividly.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: One of the stories deals with a group of soldiers who were in suspended animation waking up hundreds of thousands of years after the human civilization collapsed, they encounter the precursors of raptor-like rodents and a group of feral humans.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: A Troodon pursues Purga, the protagonist of the first chapter, not because she's hungry, but because she snapped when she found Purga eating her eggs.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?:
    • The boneheads (Neanderthals) once Homo sapiens sapiens takes over.
    • Elisha wonders if it is still rape to have non-consensual sex with a genetically non-compatible partner.
  • Xenofiction: Only a few chapters are about humans, the rest count as this.
Everything MattersScience Fiction LiteratureThe Excalibur Alternative
Evil Genius TrilogyLiterature of the 2000sThe Excalibur Alternative

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