Saturday, April 10, 2004

Book — Beyond Infinity by Greg Benford

Greg Benford's Beyond Infinity revisits his earlier sequel to Clarke's Against the Fall of Night. Now, of Clarke's oeuvre, the only one I think has staying power to merit inclusion in my own library is the reworked version The City and the Stars - something early that pointed towards some of the themes only recently brought into the mainstream of SF. Like Beyond the Fall of Night, this is a little bit of the guided tour of the far future epoch, showing a high degree of ingenuity in fitting the 50-plus-year-old cosmological assumptions of the earlier work into the contemporary view how things work - and into some of Benford's other motifs (he doesn't quite tie it all up with this Galactic Centre sequence). Unfortunately, both Beyond... books don't go much beyond that guided tour, and share with the Galactic Centre books a disintegration when attempting to confront the Transcendent that marks this as not a keeper. I would rather have seen Damien Broderick's competing sequel to The City and the Stars.

Chris Priest's The Separation is another of his investigations of historical quirks, on the themes of doubles, mixed identities and confusion between twins. Ostensibly a what-if WWII story (what if Rudolf Hess' peace mission had succeeded), it works on the question of who Prisoner 7 in Spandau actually was, and how many times doubles stood in for Churchill, to make an unresolved enigma. More thought provoking than the previous work, despite - maybe because - of its more restricted canvas.

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