In a future where the ancients have long since departed Earth for the stars, those left behind live complacent lives filled with technological marvels they no longer understand. Then a cosmic threat known as the Encroachment begins a devastating ice age on Earth, and it sets in motion a series of events that will bring together a cast of original characters who must struggle through war, political intrigues and age-old mysteries to save the world. (B 4worned, 1 oph Banx' carrokters theenx en funetic inglish, which makes for some tough reading but also some innovative prose.)
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All is not well in the mammoth, multitiered underground city-state of Serehfa, where the king and his clan are waging an inexplicable battle with the engineer clan. Meanwhile, the entire planet anxiously awaits the arrival of a dust cloud headed for the sun--a development called the encroachment that threatens to plunge Earth into a life-extinguishing ice age. Having abandoned long ago the means and expertise to flee into space, humanity's only hope for technological deliverance is the crypt, a ubiquitous computer mainframe that stores all recorded knowledge, including the downloaded minds of the dead, but which has been almost totally corrupted by viral chaos. Defying the king's bewildering lack of concern for the encroachment, a rebel scientist, a dead officer living on in the virtuality of the crypt, and a semiliterate youth try to penetrate the crypt's chaotic levels and retrieve the needed knowledge before it's too late. Banks' skill at high-tech speculation continues to grow. Every page of this, his most ingenious work yet, seems to offer more dazzling, intriguing ideas. Carl Hays