cover image Beyond Fall of Night

Beyond Fall of Night

Gregory Benford, Arthur Charles Clarke. Putnam Publishing Group, $19.95 (298pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13499-9

One of Clarke's early novels, Against the Fall of Night , has long been recognized as among his very best; the tale of a young man's need to escape from the limits of the last cities on Earth, it combines the author's scientific know-how with his yen for mysticism and metaphysics. This new book unites the first volume with a sequel penned by noted scientist Benford ( Timescape ), whose work has often been compared to Clarke's. Benford's story takes place many years later: Earth is now under siege by the ``Mad Mind,'' a being of pure mentality created by a much earlier galactic Empire. Cley, last of the seemingly primitive ``Ur-humans,'' initially refuses to help Alvin, Clarke's hero, in battle. But she begins to view her role differently with the aid of Seeker, a furry ``raccoon-creature'' whose species avows ``a respect for evolution and one's place in it.'' Although Benford's unflagging inventiveness will both delight and outrage fans of the original work, ultimately the sequel proves a let-down. Benford seems hindered by having to emulate Clarke's simpler and less contemporary style, and ends up using a number of tangential events to explore his own scientific concerns. Science Fiction Book Club main selection, Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates. (July)