Beyond Infinity

Beyond Infinity

3.8 7
by Gregory Benford
Eminent physicist and science fiction master Gregory Benford has won numerous honors including two Nebula Awards and the United Nations Medal for Literature. Now continuing the transcendental adventure of his novella, Beyond the Fall of Night, Benford presents a visionary work of stunning imaginative power that spans dimensions and galactic space in the far future...


Eminent physicist and science fiction master Gregory Benford has won numerous honors including two Nebula Awards and the United Nations Medal for Literature. Now continuing the transcendental adventure of his novella, Beyond the Fall of Night, Benford presents a visionary work of stunning imaginative power that spans dimensions and galactic space in the far future... Cley is an Original, a genetically pure member of the most ancient Ur-Human beings. Like others of her forest-dwelling tribe, she expects to spend her few centuries working in the great subterranean Library of Life. Then catastrophe strikes when strange, transdimensional life-forms obliterate the Library and kill all of Earth's Originals -- except Cley. These uncanny beings also attack the planet's most advanced human species, the highly evolved Supras, who cannot reconstruct the knowledge and DNA lost in the Library's ruins. Nor can they protect Cley... Forced to flee, Cley must begin a desperate quest for survival, answers, and hope. Joined by a raccoonlike companion called Seeker, she will journey across the myriad environments of her wildly transformed world...and then far, far beyond. For somewhere -- past planets that have been reengineered, past sentient ship-worlds evolving deep between stars, past creatures the size of solar systems -- waits the Malign. A being so powerful that it can escape a black hole, the Malign is destroying the galaxy as it hunts down the one thing it fears...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Expanded from his 1990 novella, "Beyond the Fall of Night," this dense, lively, far-future SF novel from Benford (The Martian Race) sweeps readers away in a taut adventure that examines humanity's role in steering the fate of the universe. Young Cley is an Original, a genetically pure example of the oldest species of humans on Earth. Though the genetically reengineered Supras regard her as limited in intelligence, Cley's precocious nature lands her a job helping to recover scientific and historical data from the immense caches called the Library of Life. When a vicious attack by transdimensional life forms leaves Cley the last Original alive, the Supras blame an extradimensional race known as the Malign. Cley knows, though, the Supras aren't telling her the whole story. Aided by the raccoon-like alien Seeker-After-Patterns, which seems to have a parallel agenda all its own, Cley flees Supra captivity and Earth. Her journey quickly takes on an Alice-in-Wonderland quality, as she and Seeker traverse bewildering multidimensional spaces and encounter the immense Leviathan, a living ship that roams the solar system. Cley won't be safe until she solves the secret of the Malign-a secret whose truth lies far back in the past, when the human race first set out to explore the galaxy. With its thoughtful extrapolation and mind-bending physics, this book reinforces Benford's position as one of today's foremost writers of hard SF. (Mar. 18) FYI: Benford, a physicist, has won two Nebula Awards and a John W. Campbell Award. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In a far-distant future, the destiny of human life depends on the actions of one young woman, an "Original" human named Cley. When a catastrophic attack from unknown life forms destroys the other "Originals" on Earth, Cley's work in the massive Library of Life, under the direction of Supras, or altered humans, comes to an abrupt end as she embarks on a voyage to confront the world-demolishing entity known as the Malign. Based on Benford's earlier novella, Beyond the Fall of Night, this wildly imaginative coming-of-age story has its grounding in hard science. Physicist and sf veteran Benford writes clearly about space and time without forgetting the human perceptions that give those concepts meaning. Highly recommended for most sf collections. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Novel-length rewrite of Benford's story "Beyond the Fall of Night" (1990), itself a sequel to Arthur C. Clarke's "Against the Fall of Night" (and later novel The City and the Stars). Billions of years from now, an utterly hostile being made of magnetic fields, the Malign, frees itself after being trapped for eons in the gravity well of the supergiant black hole at the center of the galaxy. Determined to destroy all other life-forms, especially organic ones, and particularly vengeful toward those it regards as responsible for its imprisonment, the Malign heads for Earth. Here, latter-day humanity consists of a handful of Originals (they carry the most ancient human DNA still extant) and some Supras, physically and mentally enhanced to an almost incomprehensible degree. Cley, an Original, works in the vast underground data repositories known as the Library of Life. Her lover, Kurani, and other Supras investigate a phenomenon resembling a sentient electrical discharge-which kills Kurani, all the Originals save Cley, and destroys much of the data in the library. Seeker, a raccoonlike intelligent creature that clearly knows much more than it's telling, saves Cley's life. The surviving Supras propose to clone Cley before the Original DNA is lost altogether. Cley refuses and, after a jaunt through a four-dimensional tube, flees into space with Seeker; they enjoy various adventures among creatures that inhabit the vacuum itself. But somehow, somewhere, the Malign must be confronted. Inexplicable except in terms of a deep-seated obsession: offers few orthodox novelistic virtues, goes nowhere in particular, and despite-or maybe because of-the copious ideas based on string theory and other exoticphysics, weighs a ton.

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
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4.25(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.12(d)

Read an Excerpt

Beyond Infinity

By Gregory Benford

Warner Aspect

Copyright © 2004 Gregory Benford
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-446-53059-X

Chapter One

The attack had come in a savage, fire-bright moment.

It began with strange droplets coasting on the air, shimmering, murmuring. Floodlights had ringed a gray, chipped slab, where she worked with Kurani. Recently opened passages far into the Library labyrinth had yielded complicated new puzzles in data-slabs. They were reading out a curious string of phrases in a long-dead language, from a society that had reached the peak of mathematical wisdom, or so the historians said.

The floating, humming motes distracted her. Unlike the familiar microtech that pervaded the Library performing tasks, these shifted and scintillated in the hard spotlight glare.

Kurani ignored them. His powers of concentration were vast and pointed. He had just discovered that these ancient people had used numbers not as nouns or adjectives, but to modify verbs, words of action. Instead of "see those three trees," they would say something like, "the living things manifesting treeness here act visibly as a collection divided to the extent of three."

She remembered Kurani's furrowed brow, his quizzical interrogation of distant resource libraries as he struggled with this conceptual gulf. These ancients had used number systems that recognized three bases-ten, twelve, and five-and were rooted in the body, with its five toes and six fingers. So grounded in the flesh, what insights did the ancients reach in far more rarefied pursuits? Scholars had already found a deep fathoming of the extra dimensions known to exist in the universe. The slab before Cley and Kurani spoke of experiments in dimensional transport, all rendered in a strangely canted manner.

Cley had kept her focus as tightly wrapped around this problem as she could. She found such abstractions engulfing.

But the motes ... and suddenly she looked up at a new source of light. The motes were tumbling in a field of amber glitter. Sharp blue shards of brilliance lanced into her eyes. The motes were not microtech but windows into another place, where hard radiance rumbled and fought.

She had turned to Kurani to warn him-

-and the world was sliced. Cut into thin parallel sheets, each showing a different part of Kurani, sectioned neatly by a mad geometer.

But this was not illusion, not a mere refraction in the air. He was divided, slashed crosswise. She could see into his red interior, organs working, pulsing. She stepped toward him-

Then came the fire, hot pain, and screaming. She remembered running. The motes swept after her, and she was trying to get away from the terrible screams. Only when she gasped for breath did she realize that the screams had come from her.

She had made herself stop. Turned, for a moment that would haunt her forever. Looked back down a long stony corridor that tapered to infinity-and Kurani was at the other end, not running. Impaled on blades of light. Sliced. Writhing.

And then, to her shame, she had turned and run away. Without another backward glance. Terrified.

The memory came sharply into her. The bare fossil outlines of later events swelled up, filling her throat, the past pressing to get out.

Finding a dozen of a neighboring Meta cowering in a passageway. Fidgeting with fear. They had to shout themselves hoarse in the thundering violence.

Then the booming eased away. Crackling energies came instead.

The other Naturals said the attacks raged through all the valleys of the Library. They were being pursued by a rage beyond comprehension. Let the Supras fight it if they could.

They would be hunted like rats here. She agreed-they had to get out, into the forest.

The seething air in the passageway became prickly. A sound like fat frying grew near. No one could stand and wait for it.

She went down a side tunnel. The other Originals fled toward the main passage. Better to run and hide alone than in a straggling rabble. But the tunnel ceiling got lower as she trotted, then walked, finally duckwalked.

She cowered far back in the tunnel, alone in blackness. Stabs of virulent lightning forked in the distance and splashed the tunnel walls with an ivory glow. Getting closer. In one of the flashes she saw tiny designs in the tunnel wall.

Her fingers found the pattern. Ancient, a two-tiered language. A ... combination? Plan?

She extruded a finger into a tool wedge and tracked along the grooves. It was telling a tale of architectural detail she could not follow very well, reading at high speed through the tool. She sensed a sense-phrase, inserted in the middle of an extended brag about the design. It referred to an inlet-or maybe outlet. A two-valence, anyway. Okay, okay-but where?

More snapping flashes, emerald now. Nearer. Could they hear her?

She inched farther into the tunnel. Her head bumped the ceiling; the rough bore was narrowing. In another quick glimmer, followed by an electrical snarl, she saw a web of symbol tracks, impossible to follow. So damn much history! Where's the door?

She scrunched farther in. The web tapered down into a shallow track, and she got her finger wedged in. Ah! Codes. She twisted, probed-and the wall flopped open into another tunnel.

She crawled through, trying to be quiet. A glowing brown snake was coming after her down the tunnel. She slammed the curved hatch in its face.

Pitch-black. At least the lightning had shown her what was going on. She sat absolutely still. Faint thunder and a trembling in the floor. This tunnel was round and-a soft breeze.

She crawled toward it. Not even height to duckwalk. The slight wind got stronger. Cool to her fevered brow.

Smells: dust, leaves? A dull thump behind her. She hurried, banging her knees-

-and spilled halfway out into clear air. Above, stars. A drop of about her height, onto dirt. She reversed and dropped to the ground. Scent of dry dirt. Flashes to the left. She went right.

She ran. Snapping crashes behind her. Dim shapes up ahead. Trees? A rising sucking sound behind. A brittle thrust of amber fire rushed over her left shoulder and shattered into a bush-exploding it into flames.

Trees-she dodged left. Faint screams somewhere.

The sucking sound again. Into the trees, heels digging in hard.

Another amber bolt, this time roasting the air near her. It veered up and ignited a crackling bower of fronds.

Screams getting louder. Up ahead? Glows there. She went right, down a gully, splashing across a stream. Not deep enough to cover her.

A spark sizzled down from the air into the trees up ahead. She went left and found a wall of brambles. Distant flickering gave her enough light to pick her way along, gasping. Around the brambles, into thick trees. She crossed the stream again. Deeper here. Downstream went back toward the open, toward the excavated tunnels. She ran upstream. The sucking rush came stealing up behind. She dodged, ducked, dodged. Stay near the stream. If the water got deeper-

The pain swarmed over her and pushed her into blackness.


Excerpted from Beyond Infinity by Gregory Benford Copyright © 2004 by Gregory Benford. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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