cover image Sailing Bright Eternity

Sailing Bright Eternity

Gregory Benford. Spectra Books, $22.95 (404pp) ISBN 978-0-553-08655-3

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. (Sept.)