DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

Beyond Infinity
Gregory Benford
Warner Aspect / $23.95 / 288p
ISBN: 044653059X Cover

In 1990, Gregory Benford published Beyond the Fall of Night, a sequel of sorts to Arthur C. Clarke's 1948 novella Against the Fall of Night. Now, Benford has spun his novella into this full-length novel. With a genealogy like that, you might expect something a bit fusty, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Benford, one of the few scientists writing science fiction today, uses some of the edgiest ideas of current theoretical physics to weave this fascinating fiction. If you are unacquainted with cosmological models that speculate we are confined to a "brane" (short for "membrane") embedded in a higher dimensional space-time -- don't worry: Benford allows us to explore the ideas almost surrealistically. The book is ambitiously set in a future a billion or more years hence but, in the best "sensawunda" tradition, we have an acceptably plausible base from which to discover a new universe. The incomprehensible is made comprehensible by making the protagonist a girl-woman, Cley, who is a genetic equivalent of an Ur-human, the "Original type" of a human species recognizably close to our own. An inexplicable electro-magnetic attack obliterates all Originals except Cley as well as the genetic riches archived by the ultimately evolved Supras. Befriended by Seeker, an example of what a billion years of evolution might result in if one started with a raccoon, Cley begins her adventures. Although the Supras "value" Cley, their interest is neither entirely benign nor completely informed. After an Alice in Wonderland tumble in the four-dimensional equivalent of a rabbithole, the strangely wise Seeker and Cley are off into space to discover the secret of the genocidal "Malign." In an afterword, Benford makes mention of the term "transcendental adventure" (credited to David Hartwell.) It is as apt an idiom as any to describe this marvelous, if not exactly novelistic, novel.

--review originally appeared in Cinemafantastique June/July 2004

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Copyright © 2004 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.