on 7 April 2001
A fascinating book that gives a new spin to a rarely-explored plot idea. Apart from the satisfaction of knowing that all the details have been checked and are consistent with science as we know it, there are some fascinating insights into the nature and likely behaviour of an immensely intelligent but wholly non-human mind. The book starts rather slowly but builds steadily up to a thrilling climax.
Aficionados can amuse themselves by spotting the parallels with Fred Hoyle's brilliantly original novel "The Black Cloud", published in the early 1960s. The name of the dominant scientist is one, but there are at least half a dozen more. However, "Eater" is also very different from "The Black Cloud" - in its setting, its people, and above all in the nature of the visiting alien.
Gregory Benford can be relied on to take leading-edge scientific ideas and build them into exciting stories. Unlike some SF writers, he makes a distinct effort to build characters, and his people are far more rounded and believable than those of some "literary" authors. The plot revolves around scientific ideas and events rather than people's feelings and relationships, but then this is SF.
on 17 May 2008
The similarities between this book and Fred Hoyle's "The Black Cloud" are so many and so striking and so detailed (e.g. the name of the lead character) that I think some acknowledgement might be called for. However, none is given.
Apart from that, it is a probably a better book, certainly better written. (Fred does tend to plod.)
on 12 February 2001
Before reading this book I would reccomend that you take a course, preferably a degree in advanced astrophysics. The story is swamped and flounders amidst reems of physics babble and the characters are lifeless and samey. The book heads towards an unconvincing and anticlimactic end and left me feeling glad I'd finished the book. The only redeeming factor is Benford's well handled view of Channing's battle with cancer. 'Only' being the operative word. Oh dear!