The final chapter of humanity's future has begun and one man has been alive through it all: Nigel Walmsley, an ancient scientist from the distant past marooned inside an anomaly of time and space. From here he recalls the ingenious but desperate struggle against the mechs - a vast and violent artificial intelligence dedicated to the total destruction of the human race - and the enigmatic contact with the Old Ones. The Old Ones are life-forms bigger than the stars and guard the center of the galaxy - a voracious black hole calied the Eater of All Things. Close by, in a strange space-time continuum called the Esty, the survivors of humanity's ravaged planets have been forced to take refuge - and make a final stand against their ruthless executioners. Three men hold the key to human survival - three men whose link is Nigel Walmsley: Toby Bishop, a young warrior-in-training, a fugitive from the planet Snowglade and survivor of the renegade ship Argo; Killeen Bishop, Toby's father, leader of the Snowglade survivors and captain of the ship that dared to plunge into the Galactic Center; and Killeen's own father, a man thought dead who has been mysteriously saved from oblivion. As the mechs carve a path of calamity through the Esty, it soon becomes apparent that these three men - three generations in a family of voyagers - are their targets. But why? And how can Toby, his father, and his grandfather survive long enough to unleash the lethal secret they unknowingly carry against their relentless pursuers?
Fifteen years ago, Benford's Timescape set the tone for the subgenre of "hard" science fiction that deals with quantum effects and particle physics, the discoveries and theories of which often make their fictional expressions seem more akin to fantasy than to traditional SF. Now, with this sixth and concluding volume of his Galactic Center series, Benford, a physicist himself, takes the form to either its apotheosis or its death knell. Though replete with fascinating ideas and exhilarating events that are, for the most part, elucidated with skill, the novel contains several chapters that may confound even readers who have followed the adventures of Nigel Walmsley since his initial appearance in 1977. Walmsley begins by relating his escapades to Toby Bishop, whose family is proceeding toward its destiny in the long-standing battle between organic and mechanical life-forms. The Bishop family and Walmsley are aided or impeded by several other life-forms whose roles and goals in the quest for ultimate survival are central to the story. While a reader's tenacity?which is what sets humans apart from others in Benford's conception of the universe?is occasionally tested, this novel stands as a worthy conclusion to what now should be acknowledged as the most important and involving hard SF series yet written.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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February 28, 2005
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