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Sailing Bright Eternity Paperback – September 1, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

In the sixth novel of his Galactic Center epic, Benford brings the series to a dramatic close with a peek into humanity's future 37,000 years hence. Nigel Walmsley, twentieth-century Earth's first starship traveler, who figured in the saga's first installment, In the Ocean of Night (1977), returns to recount recent adventures inside the Esty, an anomalous shelter of space-time existing outside a black hole near the galaxy's true center. Walmsley's listener is Toby Bishop, the adolescent protagonist of Furious Gulf , whose family and fellow humans have been decimated by an insidious, machine-based life-form known as the mechs. Together, Walmsley, Toby, and the remnants of Toby's family must find the means to outwit the mechs before they penetrate the Esty and destroy all trace of humanity. Benford makes up for his somewhat pedantic prose with a wealth of fascinating scientific speculation in a dazzling finish to one of the best hard-sf sagas ever written. Carl Hays --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (October 2, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553573322
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553573329
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 4.2 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gregory Benford, author of top-selling novels, including Jupiter Project, Artifact, Against Infinity, Eater, and Timescape, is that unusual creative combination of scientist scholar and talented artist; his stories capture readers - hearts and minds - with imaginative leaps into the future of science and of us.

A University of California faculty member since 1971, Benford has conducted research in plasma turbulence theory and experiment, and in astrophysics. His published scientific articles include well over a hundred papers in fields of physics from condensed matter, particle physics, plasmas and mathematical physics, and several in biological conservation.

Often called hard science fiction, Benford's stories take physics into inspired realms. What would happen if cryonics worked and people, frozen, were awoken 50 years in the future? What might we encounter in other dimensions? How about sending messages across time? And finding aliens in our midst? The questions that physics and scientists ask, Benford's imagination explores.
With the re-release of some of his earlier works and the new release of current stories and novels, Benford takes the lead in creating science fiction that intrigues and amuses us while also pushing us to think.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 4, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Gregory Benford is a talented author. His
novel Timescape is evidence enough. In fact,
this particular series began well, with
the story of Killeen Bishop and his embattled
tribe, fighting a desperate, bleeding war against
the interesting "mechs." The next three
volumes (or is it four? five?) however show
the plot to be on a montonically decreasing curve,
increasingly stuffed with the latest physics mumbo-jumbo, and wow gee science in the best tradition of popular mechanics, at the cost of character development and story line.

This last volume is indeed the worst. I found myself caring little about Mr. Bishop and his son, the accompanying cyber-a(u)nt that keeps slipping in and out of esty's, whatever the hell they are.

And Nigel Walmsley. Of course there has to be
such a character in all such stories spanning
a godzillion years. He is the guy who remembers
what the word "coffee" meant, or that people
travelled in "subways", and other nuggets to
keep the cosmic brouhaha in perspective.
It seems to me that Mr.Benford wrote two
different sets of stories, and then couldn't
resist the fatal impulse to merge unlikely situations and characters into one huge, ugly
heap. Consider: the mechs attack the humans in the
early 21st century, and humans not only survive
but even capture a scouting ship, and drive
it to the center of the galaxy. Huh uh.

Mr. Benford takes tired old themes from Dawkin's
memes argument, Cairns-Smith's "we came from clay"
theory, Turing's "no virus checker is possible"
result, and the result is a Maalox moment.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Arthur P. Smith on September 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
Perhaps Dr. Benford didn't give himself enough time to produce the conclusion this series really deserved. The preceding books, "In the Ocean of Night" (1977), "Across the Sea of Suns" (1984), "Great Sky River" (1987), "Tides of Light" (1989), and "Furious Gulf" (1994) had set up a galaxy of humans, intelligent mechanical entities, vast magnetic beings, myriapodia and other varied aliens, complex astrophysical structures, some artificial, surrounding the galactic center, and the chaotic and uncertain "esty" in the wedge hugging the galactic black hole. Each preceding book had introduced fascinating new entities inhabiting the galaxy and locations for the drama to play out, but this one stayed within the final "esty", chaotic and perhaps infinitely varied to be sure, but somehow full of sameness in its chaos.

The new characters here are god-like higher beings hinted at in the earlier books - and their actions are really not well explained, except that they ally themselves temporarily with the humans against the mechanicals, to turn things around from the death and destruction wrought to this point. The "esty" (space-time or S-T) was specifically designed by these higher beings in the distant past to accommodate organic life and exclude the machines. This last novel journeys, at one point, billions of years into the future; it also finds Toby in adventures that echo Mark Twain's Mississippi river boat escapades, though here he is going uphill on a river of flowing time. The varied human settlements in the "esty" are occasionally fascinating, but as with the environment itself, there's a certain sameness that seems to stretch the novel beyond what is really needed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Curtis L. Wilbur on August 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
This final novel in the "Galactic Center" set proves that even on a bad day, Benford can still whip out a fairly decent yarn.
Not up to his usual caliber, this novel seems even more disjointed than the previous few, and so much less lovingly spun than the "Ocean of Night" which started the series off. The changes in font are positively annoying, and the character development - or lack thereof - reduces the believability and likability of the people we're supposed to be rooting for. Particularly implausable is the dangerous, tin-man Mantis, whose mysterious and compelling behavior in the earlier novels is reduced to trying to find a "heart". I was sorely disappointed in this outcome, and I won't even discuss what a pitiful, sex-starved moron that Nigel Walmsley has become. It's just too painful.
Despite these and other disappointments, I have to give Benford credit for leaving this capstone open-ended, and providing the glorious, off-beat energy that makes his works so readable. I've never even written a published novel, and Benford has managed to pull together so much in this series, despite the reduction in degrees of freedom that the previous novels require to hold the story together. I can't help being reminded of Arthur C. Clark's "2010" where they somehow managed to change planets from Saturn to Jupiter. Sequels can be tough to pull off. We backed Benford into a corner, (or maybe he did it himself), and he performed well enough to merit a moderate "thumbs-up". I have definitely read worse
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