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The heavy SF action begins in 2400. Space-going humanity is the most recent of many civilizations to be baffled by the impenetrable Kefahuchi Tract; that vast stellar area where an unshielded singularity makes physics itself undependable. Along its accessible fringe, the "Beach", solar systems are littered with insane, abandoned gadgets used to penetrate the Tract because in the past life started on Earth. An entire dead-end culture is based on beachcombing this debris of industrial archaeology ...
25th-century characters include a woman who's compromised practically everything to combine with the AI "mathematics" of a fracture military spacecraft; a previous daredevil who when surfed black holes however has actually pulled away into a virtual reality tank; the woman owner of the Circus of Pathet Lao, with an alien freakshow and a concealed program; and a range of x-rated, foul-smelling, gene-sculpted lowlife, some comic, some menacing. Numerous are not what they seem.
In 1999 London, physicists Kearney and Tate-- remembered in 2400 as the fathers of interstellar flight-- are getting no place. Kearney's individual issues occupy familiar Harrison area: metropolitan paranoia, a seedily undependable guru, bad sex, guilty routines to propitiate a metaphysical-seeming hazard called the Shrander-- a pursuing image out of headache. In the lab, both Kearney and Tate fear the increasing quantum strangeness of their outcomes.
The cosmological wonders and dangers of the Beach form a backdrop to space pursuits and violent skirmishes whose duration is measured in nanoseconds, reported in tensely lyrical prose. Ultimately everything comes together as it should-- even that overbearing 1999 story hair-- with revelations, improvement, transcendence, and ultimate hope. Harrison demands your full interest and rewards it richly.--David Langford
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