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Beyond Infinity    by Gregory Benford order for
Beyond Infinity
by Gregory Benford
Order:  USA  Can
Aspect, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Beyond Infinity is speculative fiction, that's heavy on speculation and light on fiction. The story develops slowly, as the author explains humanity's evolution to this far future, through a philosophical presentation of various races that coexist at different levels of human development.

It's told from the point of view of Cley, who is an Original, one of a group of Ur-humans brought to life from the oldest of human genes. In the time in which Cley lives, people co-exist at various levels of human evolution. Cley is raised in an extended family by a series of Moms ('mother of the moment'). The long-lived (essentially immortal) Supras have given Cley's people, the Meta, the task of helping with 'regreening the world'. Cley longs for her departed father, falls in love with Supra Kurani, and works with him in the 'Library of Life'. Then terror strikes from the skies and all the Originals are wiped out except for Cley, who is healed and helped by the sentient 'Seeker After Patterns', a being distantly descended from raccoons.

After an accidental inter-dimensional journey (tagging along with Morphs), and another savage attack from the skies, Cley becomes gradually disenchanted by the paternalistic care of the Supras, who 'Treat her like a vaguely remembered pet.' She and Seeker escape, Cley in search of other Ur-humans (Seeker's motivations are obscure.) As Cley and Seeker flee across the Solar system, travelling in space leviathans and pursued both by Supras and their enemy, we gradually learn more. Eons before, humanity fought and caged the Malign (inscrutable alien minds that have extinguished entire civilizations), and subsequently went into a decline. Now this formidable and wholly malignant intelligence has broken free, and an Original is needed to aid in its defeat.

Much of the characters' philosophic musings are hard to fathom, but I enjoyed some of the repartée between Cley and Seeker, as when she asks him how lesser can make greater, and he replies, 'Every parent stands perplexed by it.' Overall, while Beyond Infinity is extremely impressive in scope and imagination, it's not my cup of tea, as my SF tastes tend to less abstraction and more story.

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