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Tides of Light: Galactic Center, Book 4 Audible – Unabridged

4 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
The "Great Sky River" series eschews the traditional science fiction device of portraying human beings as creatures apparently inferior to greater alien intelligences, yet having some indefinable superiority. How many stories, particularly as found in "Analog", have you read where humanity or an intrepid human explorer tricks superior (intellectually speaking) aliens by some sort of street smarts or idiosyncratic human trait ? Don't go looking for that smugness here. Fifty years ago John W Campbell challenged his writers to "show him a creature that thinks as well as a man only differently", but Benford has demolished the idea of mere equality in intellectual power between humans and aliens. The mechs and cyborg intelligences in this series are drawn as well as non-human aliens can be, their motivations and capabilities (as well as thought processes) are described without lapsing into merely "jazzing up" human characteristics. Benford's aliens are aliens in mind as well as physique and no reader can fathom their true nature. Benford's humans are hunter-gathers, appropriating technologies and materials they can not create themselves. William Tenn's description of humans as " rats in the walls" is carried to an extreme in "Tides of Light". Family Bishop merely dodges incomprehensible aliens and forces before fortune steers them to the next instalment. Benford has made an elegiac vision of the future, incorporating grandeur like Arthur C Clarke in "The City and The Stars" with a mysterious plot. The aliens are ALIEN and the humans are so different in physical nature amd cultural millieu as to be almost unbelievable. Strongly recommended.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Author Benford is a professional physicist, and it shows perhaps the most in this fourth novel of the galactic center series. The others: "In the Ocean of Night" (1977), "Across the Sea of Suns" (1984), "Great Sky River" (1987), "Furious Gulf" (1994), and "Sailing Bright Eternity" (1995) also rely on his scientific background and poetic language, but "Tides of Light" is the one where he manages to put his hero on a classic free-fall trajectory through the center of a planet, a situation imagined in richer detail than you've ever seen it before.

The novels are grouped in two's - the third, "Great Sky River", introduces us to Killeen Bishop and his clan, human scavengers in the dominant central galactic machine civilization some 30,000 years in the future. "Tides of Light" continues the story of Killeen, now captain of the Bishop clan, landing on a new planet with fascinating new alien life-forms imagined in realistic physical and mental detail. These mechanically augmented myriapodia, large many-legged burrowing insect-like creatures, skilfully manipulate the most exotic physical element in the series: a planet-sized cosmic string. The myriapodia use their cosmic string to burrow through entire planets, extracting the metal-rich cores to weave artificial structures on the scale of entire solar systems.

Part of the fascination of the story is the state of the humans here - good at surviving, but fearfully low in skills and abilities, and filled with knowledge of decline from a much more prosperous state. Fighting not just the myriapodia and the machines, but fellow humans led by a despotic leader, Benford manages to couple exciting action with insights into human nature, singly and in groups.
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By A Customer on February 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Gregory Benford is one of the few authors who don't betray science in their science-fiction. No Star Wars or Star Trek-like anthropocentrist grotesqueries in his Galactic Centre saga : the human "heroes", led and pushed rather than self-guided through our ruthless Milky Way, are little more than feral hunter-gatherers confronted to all-emcompassing alien plots. And this, even as they are routinely described as using technologies far beyond any cyberpunk gizmo ; in fact, Benford's complex and consistent characters face mind-staggering challenges, their own cultural inheritance being one amongst many. Even the classical galactic-scale plots found in Dune or the Foundation series are utterly reduced to naught compared with the (very) long-term projects of the past and present intelligences competing in Benford's universe. Now go and read this book, along with the five others in the series !
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By A Customer on May 20, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is one of the best science fiction books I have read. It combines the realistic plight of the humans with the sureal background of New Bishop. Mr. Benford avoids the traditional view of humans being masters of stars and space, and instead has them a small faction fleeing for their lives. His descriptive nature adds to this, so it is possible to see Quath as more than words. He brings this book to life, off of the written page and into the mind of readers. His style does not make one fall asleeep from tired cliches and already been done plots, but keeps them involved with his story of our future in space.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
From the incredible Great Sky River, this book continues the story of Killeen, now a leader who must get his people to the promised spot, though he still doesn't quite know why. They are on an old human ship that was unearthed and allowed to take off in the last novel, heading to the center of the galaxy. Along the way, they encounter an insect-like race that has much more in common with mankind than meets the eye.

This book is full of scientific detail that I followed more or less. As other reviewers note, it contains a cosmic string that has been harnessed by the insectoids to harvest the resources of entire planets. Their common enemy is the machine intelligences, which have a vast web of outposts throughout the galaxy, tolerating organics at best, hunting them brutally at worst.

There is no doubt that this is fun, but unfortunately I couldn't leave behind my sense that someone was making this up - I couldn't suspend my disbelief, which I most definitely could in the previous volumes. In spite of many interesting character developments, there is a rushed feeling to this book, as if the concepts are beginning to be more important than the plot. The characters seemed more flimsy, easier to label, and the story line obscure and simply strange. I was barely able to finish this and the subsequent 2 novels, where it is all supposed to come together, were only skim books from which I wanted to find what happened without any particular magic or felling that belonged exclusively to this as, for want of a better term, a work of art.

REcommended, but only for those invested in the series.
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