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Eternal Light Paperback – 2 Apr 2009
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With this, his third novel, Paul J. McAuley stopped being merely promising and entered the front rank of British SF authors. The galactic backdrop already visited in his earlier books Four Hundred Billion Stars and Secret Harmonies here opens out at huge and exhilarating scale. Our galaxy is infested with quarrelling factions of the irrationally hostile alien Alea, against whose colonies the crumbling and partly decadent human Federation wages a depressing, genocidal war of self-defence. Now an anomalous star travelling at daunting speed has arrived from the galactic core and offers rapid wormhole transit to the centre--where ambitious Alea are building the most gigantic habitats in SF, hyperstructures light-years across. This project's use of energies from outside the universe endangers the cosmos: "Something is rubbing the fabric of space-time thin enough to allow creation to shine through." Only pure mathematical weaponry supplied by advanced "angels" from a fractal reality can stop the unravelling of space. But the ramshackle human mission to the core is beset by strife, religious fanaticism, greed and mutiny, and looks set for bloody failure even before the Alea unleash their own superweapon. A rich, crowded novel that combines exotic descriptions, slam-bang action and a mind-blowing secret history of the universe. --David Langford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Ambitious ideas-driven space opera from the stylistic master of British SF.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
The central story takes another well-worn sf idea – the evolution of life beyond flesh – but weaves it around a giddily inventive plot. As with Secret Harmonies, McAuley splits his narrative between two main leads, thus ensuring that things never becomes dull.
At times Eternal Light borders on being too-hard sf, but thanks to its strong characters the book never completely disappears up it’s own standing wave function. If you like the sort of epic universe building of Stephen Baxter (and with its use of stars as weapons, evolving beyond the material universe, and a uroboric use of time Eternal Light is a close relative of Baxter’s Xeelee series) you’ll find much to enjoy here.
Ageless plutocrats, alien superweapons, vanished post-human intelligences, galactic mega-engineering, hard-bitten fighter pilots, telepathic astronomers, fun with Einstein-Minkowski space - all the ingredients of an enjoyable hard sf adventure story combine in a plot that keeps moving at a good clip. As with most good sf, the book asks the reader to reflect on our place in the universe and the extreme possibilities of human existence. Thus the Fermi Paradox and ideas of deep time form central plot elements and are subject to some interesting and pretty original reflections. The characterisation is also surprisingly good for hard sf, McAuley has a sharp appreciation of human idiosyncracies ensures that even minor characters have more than two dimensions. In particular of primary female protagonist, Australian-Japanese telepath Dorthy Yoshida, is as rounded a heroine as can be found in any genre, not just sf.
The inclusion of some cyberpunk elements ensures that the book has little aged despite being penned a good two decades ago. However like most hard sf, the novel does require a background knowledge of contemporary scientific developments and sf conventions to get the most out of it (or at least to raise a smile at quips about hyperbolic curves), but luckily it never buries the reader in jargon. Nonetheless, the book does include a few equations, which is in my view inexcusable in fiction. Eternal Light is nonetheless a good entry in a well established genre, using the tropes of hard sf in a sophisticated and thoughtful way.