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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
Across the Sea of Suns (Book 2 of The Galactic Center)
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on July 25, 2005
In reading science fiction of all kinds for over 25 years, I came across the best novels in the genre and also across some real stinkers. I've been a bit disappointed with my most recent sci-fi reads and have resorted to research reviews at Amazon.com to discover some "sure bets". It paid off. I recently discovered Benford's Galactic Center Series and although I wasn't terribly excited with the first book, this one, the second in the series is beyond my wildest expectations.

The range of themes Benford explores in this volume is ambitious, but he still manages to deliver a page turner that invites the reader into deep questionings in topics from first contact, to exobiology, to sociology, and even gender issues. What I have come to expect from science fiction (specially in hard sci-fi) is exactly what Benford put in this book: a good amount of speculation based on whatever scientific knowledge is available at the time of writing. And to his benefit, he does it in a way that fits the story arc and keeps you wanting more.

The narrative is linear, but progresses in two different fronts. In one, we follow the discoveries of the Lancer spaceship, which travels the galaxy trying to find life, or the remnants of life, in planetary systems that show potential. What they find is not very encouraging and leads one to hypothesize that biological life has been systematically eradicated from the galaxy by some advanced intelligence. The other front deals with what is happening on Earth as Lancer roams about and what a lot is happening! Alien life forms arrive on Earth and start to thrive in our oceans destroying existing marine life and attacking also large ships. It seems two different populations of being share our oceans and a survivor from a ship that was attack tries to make sense of their behavior. Top it off with human, petty political/military intrigue and you have a plot like that contends for the reader attention on equal footing with the galactic exploration. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series!
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on June 14, 2015
Hard Scifi Fans... this is a series for you. Be ready to settle into a long account that covers generations!!! Some might call it a dull read but I delight in the technical and sociological aspects of this one! A definite singularity that will suck you in and never let you go!!!
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on March 18, 2002
I have had this book in my possesion since I was 13. An uncle of mine, a huge scifi fan, I got all of his books and this was one of them, but it was missing the last 75 pages or so, so I never read it until I found a copy of it in a used book store, and was asked by the clerk how I had enjoyed the first book, I had no idea it was a sequel, and so I ordered In the Ocean of Night from here. I enjoyed the 1st book, but greatly enjoyed the Across the Sea of suns more and, I am greatly looking forward to the next segment of Nigel's adventures.
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on September 25, 2014
A follow onto "In the Ocean of Night" and kept my interest. GB is pushing an interesting concept that machine life, being long lived, is the dominant type of life. He makes the idea of organic vs inorganic life, the central theme and so far its been an interesting story line. There seems to be more science than the normal sci-fi opera series and so far seems grounded in a sub-light speed universe.
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on October 5, 2014
I am rereading this series after several year (when it was released initially). It's even better than I remember. Benford has a way of pulling you into the action. These stories leave you pondering 'What if...'. Like Asimov and other great writers, these stories never leave you.
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on May 1, 2015
Liked the first six
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on October 11, 2013
Not well written and certainly did not flow. It came across to me as disjointed, pieced together with barely enough material to keep me interested. I had t finally put it down after wading through the slush of this story. I kept revisiting it trying to give it a chance but the story in the first book takes too long to get moving.
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on December 19, 2014
The characters in this book say "Ummm". I counted no less than 34 times when they say "um". It seems like a lot more. Ummmm! Ummmm! Umm! Umm! Um! Um! Um!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahrgh!!! I wish to warn you of this, because it may just drive you crazy. It certainly drove ME crazy!


Also-- The main character is VERY unlikable, and NEVER wrong. Don't even THINK he's wrong. EVERYONE thinks he is always wrong. But he is NEVER wrong. That doesn't stop them. They STILL always think he's wrong. Always. Even though he's demonstrably NEVER wrong. Never. Ever. Wrong. Ummm.

And finally. This author really hates Management. In his books, Management is Evil. And they are ALWAYS wrong.

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VINE VOICEon August 29, 2015
Across the Sea of Stars - Gregory Benford [0630 - August 29, 2015]

"Across the Sea of Stars"(1982) is this second of six books in the author's Ocean/Galactic Center series. All the books were published during the period 1977-95. You should know that author Gregory Benford is not only a darn fine writer of speculative fiction but also a highly regarded scientist in the field of astrophysics - which give his SCIENCE-fiction the ring of authenticity.

The story line from the first book - book 1 in the series "In the Ocean of Night"(1977) is a fairly standard science-fiction plotting concept: an alien craft is found, in this case within an asteroid, an astronaut exploring within the artifact triggers a signal and a few years later an alien ship is detected entering out solar system. This is a nuanced exploration of first contact and how our society reacts to the knowledge that we are not alone. The story is told from the point-of-view of Nigel Walmsley a NASA scientist who first explored the derelict craft within the asteroid. As the story progresses Walmsley breaches an alien computer and discerns an eons old ancient and malevolent entity intent on eliminating intelligent biological life forms.

In "Across the Sea of Stars"(1982) we fast forward from 2006 - where book 1 ended - 50 years to 2056 and are on a starship from earth, actually a hollowed out asteroid, heading for the star Ra approximately 12 light-years away. A puzzling message in English originating from this star motivated mankind to investigate - particularly in light of the discovery of alien observers and enemies as detailed in "Across the Sea of Stars". Nigel Walmsley is on the star ship although many look him upon as an eccentric old-timer. The book's chapters alternate with a parallel plot of destructive aquatic aliens raising havoc in Earths seas. Author Benford, the scientist, envisions interstellar space travel, as speeds not to exceed the speed of light and suspended animation chambers, which are available for those who desire them.

I liked the book and recommend it to interested readers. You can certainly read this book without having read book 1 "Across the Sea of Stars" but would not recommend it.
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on July 9, 2010
It is 2021. Lancer, a space colony converted with technology gleaned from the wreckage on the moon into powered interstellar ship, is sent to investigate radio signal found by Radio telescopes broadcasting old TV shows. On closer look the alien life forms, the primitive biological race of EMs, are en masse the source of the broadcast. Something made them to force go through genetically engineered evolution in order to survive and warn rest of the galaxy. A Watcher, satellite, is orbiting around the planet. Its dating shown it being there for 500 000 years. At the same time something is happening back on earth. Odd sea creatures, called Swarmers, are bringing the economy to a collapse. In swarms they sink all the ships and now they are grounding ashore to infect deadly disease. Something is happening, something ancient.

Tightly following the previous book In the Ocean of Night scientist Nigel Walmsley is now older. He earned his ticket to Lancer due to his extraordinary intelligence that was altered by the previously found alien starship on the moon. He sees connections and can follow hunches where nobody other can imagine. The progression of the ship to meet the EMs and the mystery of Watchers, that are later witnessed to orbit in other nearby star systems as well, is the jungle drum that keeps pounding at heartbeat rhythm. The social commentary of the ship to form families of triads and exhibiting command structure of voting elevates book from mere science fiction to consider ideologies, like socialism and they effect in long trip voyages. Humanity changes and groups must form new social interactions. The radical gender reassignment are for the oldest member, Nigel, hard to gulp. In parallel to the ship's mission to scout the space, the events in earth are told by eyes of sailor that drifts with his wife on the sea. Fighting to survive and surrounded by the swarmers. The first contact with another group, skimmers, starts with a tube that contains printed letters. They want to tell something important. The scale of events, million of years, start deepening the drum's sound as more information about the Watchers is gathered.

Three (3) stars. Written in 1984 is book 2 of 6 in loose saga of Galactic Center. This is hard science fiction. Nigel being the lead figure in the ship's expedition, this book is best read only after In the Ocean of Night. Seven years between the books has done good to the story. The plot is more focused and the events described in the distant extremities of Earth invasion and the ship are well linked. Adequate amount of pages is given to both to make the reader want to continue reading the sailor robinson crusoe'd to an island with Chinese Gijan and to follow mystery of Watcher satellites. It's a an interesting mix of salt and lemon, like in Tequila. But there are chips and dings. The reader must piece events together in places where overlapping conversations appearing in communication channels like ship's intercom and everybody talking at once with no note of who was saying what, cut up verbal structures into poetic forms. The lack of punctuation and clear sentences in places is surely a carefully though narrative technique which unfortunately requires muscle to comprehend properly. The interpersonal and psychological studies are a little deep for a modern reader but attestedly typical to the zeitgeist. Unique and a moving experience, classic read, but not directly engrossing.
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