The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Closely modeled on William Faulkner’s 1942 novella “The Bear,” Against Infinity is a coming-of-age story developed in six parts. The story begins in Sidon, a frontier settlement on the Jovian moon Ganymede. The settlement has been plagued by a mysterious and elusive alien artifact called the Aleph. Its random burrowings throughout the interior of the moon threaten human efforts to terraform the moon and tame the wilderness.

Manuel López, the son of the settlement’s commanding officer, first sees the Aleph when he is thirteen years old and encounters it repeatedly over the next several years. He comes under the tutelage of an aging pioneer named Matt Bohles, whose own coming-of-age story was the subject of Gregory Benford’s 1975 novel Jupiter Project. The two of them continue over the years to join periodic hunts for the Aleph. Not until Matt and Manuel are joined by a mechanically enhanced, part-human, part-animal “hound” named Eagle, however, are they able to immobilize the mysterious artifact.

Years later, after Manuel has moved from Sidon to the city of Hiruko, he learns that the entire project of space exploration is driven not so much by idealism as by brute economic necessity, to sustain an economy that must forever expand to survive. Learning of the death of his estranged father, Manuel returns to Sidon, where he finds the wilderness replaced by a thriving community of domes. An atmosphere is developing on Ganymede, there is talk of the mechanized animals forming a new underclass in society, and the Aleph has been reduced to an object of scientific study. The Aleph itself remains a mystery, however, forever rebuilding itself at the atomic level. Moreover, the Aleph seems to contain memories of all it has encountered and all who challenged it. At the novel’s conclusion, a catastrophic moonquake brought on by the stresses of terraforming nearly destroys the settlement and reasserts the primacy of the wilderness.