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The heavy SF action starts in 2400. Space-going humankind is the most current of many civilizations to be baffled by the impenetrable Kefahuchi Tract; that huge excellent region where an unshielded singularity makes physics itself unreliable. Along its easily accessible fringe, the "Beach", planetary systems are littered with crazy, deserted gadgets utilized to probe the Tract given that in the past life began in the world. An entire dead-end culture is based upon beachcombing this debris of commercial archaeology ...
25th-century characters consist of a lady who's compromised almost everything to merge with the AI "mathematics" of a fracture military spacecraft; a former daredevil who as soon as surfed great voids however has retreated into a virtual truth tank; the lady owner of the Circus of Pathet Lao, with an alien freakshow and a hidden program; and a range of vulgar, foul-smelling, gene-sculpted scoundrel, some comic, some menacing. Many are not exactly what they appear.
In 1999 London, physicists Kearney and Tate-- remembered in 2400 as the fathers of interstellar flight-- are getting no place. Kearney's personal issues inhabit familiar Harrison territory: city paranoia, a seedily unreliable guru, bad sex, guilty rituals to propitiate a metaphysical-seeming threat called the Shrander-- a pursuing image out of headache. In the lab, both Kearney and Tate fear the enhancing quantum strangeness of their results.
The cosmological marvels and threats of the Beach form a background to area pursuits and violent skirmishes whose period is determined in nanoseconds, reported in tensely lyrical prose. Ultimately everything comes together as it must-- even that overbearing 1999 story hair-- with discoveries, improvement, transcendence, and ultimate hope. Harrison requires your full interest and rewards it richly.--David Langford
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