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Beyond Infinity (Benford, Gregory) Hardcover – March 18, 2004

3.1 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Expanded from his 1990 novella, "Beyond the Fall of Night," this dense, lively, far-future SF novel from Benford (The Martian Race) sweeps readers away in a taut adventure that examines humanity's role in steering the fate of the universe. Young Cley is an Original, a genetically pure example of the oldest species of humans on Earth. Though the genetically reengineered Supras regard her as limited in intelligence, Cley's precocious nature lands her a job helping to recover scientific and historical data from the immense caches called the Library of Life. When a vicious attack by transdimensional life forms leaves Cley the last Original alive, the Supras blame an extradimensional race known as the Malign. Cley knows, though, the Supras aren't telling her the whole story. Aided by the raccoon-like alien Seeker-After-Patterns, which seems to have a parallel agenda all its own, Cley flees Supra captivity and Earth. Her journey quickly takes on an Alice-in-Wonderland quality, as she and Seeker traverse bewildering multidimensional spaces and encounter the immense Leviathan, a living ship that roams the solar system. Cley won't be safe until she solves the secret of the Malign-a secret whose truth lies far back in the past, when the human race first set out to explore the galaxy. With its thoughtful extrapolation and mind-bending physics, this book reinforces Benford's position as one of today's foremost writers of hard SF.
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Review

Benford's startling SF invention seems limitless ... I had nearly forgotten how truly inspiring and magnificently entertaining modern science fiction can be. Yet here's a great and very timely reminder! DREAMWATCH --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Benford, Gregory
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Aspect; First Edition edition (March 18, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 044653059X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446530590
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,944,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Beyond Infinity (2004) is a science fiction novel of the very far future. Based on Clarke's Against the Fall of Night, it was initially written as a novella, Beyond the Fall of Night, but has been greatly extended and modified for this version.

In this novel, Cley is an Ur-human, a form of Original and the oldest extant version of humanity (the Originals were reconstructed by the Supras during the rejuvenation of Earth). She grows up in her Meta Family knowing only her current MOM - Mother Of the Moment -- and imagining her father. She knows that her mother is probably someone living within the Meta, but her father left the Meta when she was three. Cley yearns for his return.

When she is old enough, Cley starts work at the Library of Life, where various species of Mankind catalog and rerecord the DNA and other data of Earth's history. She has a passionate attraction toward Kurani, a Supra who lives in the present as well as within the realm of abstraction. They are working together when agents of the Malign attack the Library and kill Kurani. They also try to kill Cley, but fail; her body slowly mends itself.

Seeker After Patterns, a highly modified and intelligent raccoon, finds her body and helps restore her to health. For some time they dwell in the forest, amidst ancient networks of life, while Cley recovers in body and mind. Then Rin, another Supra, discovers them and takes them back to the Library of Life.

Cley is told about the attack and learns something of the Malign and other human encounters with higher dimensions. While working outside one day, Cley and Seeker encounter Morphs, manifestations of higher dimensional beings within normal spacetime.
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Format: Hardcover
There is always a problem with stories set so far in the future that they have little or no connection to anything or anyone living today. _Beyond Infinity_ is takes place more than a billion years in Earths future, where so many races and have risen and died that nobody is close to even knowing the names of all of them even though the current race, the Supras" live more many centuries.
The scale of time is such that the sun has gone around the galaxy four times, and the continents are no longer recognizable.
Enter Cley, the heroine. She is an "Original" or one of the "Ur-Humans" which is close to our kind. Close as is desirable, since Supras in resurrecting our species added to the basic gene type telepathic abilities and the ability to live several centuries. It is so hard to latch on to her motivations that the author had to resort to more-extensive-than-necessary explorations of her sexual development. Her first affair is with a Supra, who dies in an attack that nearly kills Cley as well. It does kill off her entire tribe and she is the only one left.
The rest of the story is about the journey Cley has in the battle against the thing that attacked. In this she is saved, then abetted, then led by a raccoon-type creature that turns out to be another higher intelligence. Through all this she is understandably but frustratingly passive, doing little other than surviving while events unfold around her. Through it all she has obscure and occasionally enlightening conversations with Supras and her raccoon friend, centered around Benford's well-founded ideas of astrophysics, biology, and sociology.
Only if you are interested in these topics will you get anything out of this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Gregory Benford has been, and remains, a terrific writer, as well as a real scientist, but this is not a good book. For a hard s.f. enthusiast, the language is fuzzy and verbose although the book has less than 300 pages. The technology (mostly biological) seems not to be well thought out, although perhaps, in the far distant future, it's so fabulous as to be beyond contemporary description. In any case, some of it seems to make little sense such as a forested O'Neill cylinder that somehow is an inter-dimensional portal. The idea that the villain, or someone, exists in more dimensions than our usual 3, or even 4 (perhaps with more than one time dimension), is not exploited in an interesting way. For those looking for psychology and motivation, the primary character, Cley, is moderately interesting, but her evolved raccoon companion is just enigmatic. The highly advanced descendants of current humans, the Supras, are mostly snooty and rather boring; considering how smart they are, they don't do much. Finally, once underway, the plot is purely linear with few digressions or new characters: the protagonist and her companion have an adventure with a beginning, middle, and end; that's not so bad, but for someone as talented and clever as Professor Benford, I had hoped for more.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Benford took the last part of a book he cowrote with my beloved Arthur C. Clarke, Beyond the Fall of Night (oh, how I wish I could italicize in these text fields), and adapted/expanded upon it. Some of the characters' names changed: Rin was clearly who had been Alvin in the first book, and Kata was who had been Seranis. What was the Mad Mind is now called the Malign. But Cley and Seeker After Patterns were the same. This book also renamed the cities of Lys and Diaspar to Illusivia and Sonomulia, respectively. It even mentions the Keeper of the Records (from Diaspar/Sonomulia), so in a way, Clarke's original threads persist in Benford's reimagining. (Benford's version, though, omits Vanamonde and does not focus on the capers that Alvin/Rin experienced earlier in life; only vague mentions of the differences between the inhabitants of the two cities exist in this retelling.)

The vision of humanity in the distant future drew me to Clarke's original book, and Benford offered a chance to explore this dynamic further. At times, Benford's book delves into some hard-core science themes, including multiple universes, multidimensional physics/"branes," and transcorporeal existence (which reminded me of the ascended beings in the Stargate universe). The highly evolved, six-legged raccoon-like creature known as Seeker After Patterns throws in an element of mystery, with hints of divinity.

A great deal happens to Cley and Seeker as they face conflict both with the advanced humans of the time and with the noncorporeal Malign intent on destroying Cley's kind. The adventures are pretty out there, but if you stay with the book you do find a touching ending. Benford's training as a scientist is clear in this book, and I'm glad I took a few days to read it.
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