The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

All three novels of the trilogy concern epic adventures of the Family Bishop, distant descendants of earthly humanity, on a journey from the home planet Snowglade to the galactic centers black hole. Great Sky River, the first novel in the series, introduces Killeen, the trilogys central character, through his dream of the Calamity, the fall of the Bishop Citadel before the onslaught of a superior race of hunter machines and cyborgs.

In part 1, “Long Retreat,” the two-hundred-member remnant of Family Bishop, led by Capn Fanny, fights its way across the ravaged face of Snowglade, a once-lush planet now transformed by “mechs” into an arid plain more congenial to machines. Fanny is shot down by a Mantis, a vast anthology intelligence shadowing the Family. In part 2, “The Once-Green World,” Bishops fight their way to a Splash, a green swamp created by the fall of an asteroid, finding there members of Family Rook and one Knight, the woman Shibo, who is encased in an “exshell,” or machine-augmented body. In part 3, “The Dreaming Vertebrates,” Shibo becomes Killeens lover and friend of his adolescent son Toby. The Family Bishop finds Capn Hatchet and his Metropolis, a Citadel of mud huts constructed in the Splash with the help of a renegade machine. The Mantis reappears, forcing Hatchet to have sex with its grotesque reconstruction of Fanny. Killeen shoots them both and discovers that Hatchet was a “manmech” tool of the Mantis. Killeen receives a message from his dead father, Abraham, urging him to find the Starship Argo and lead the remaining families farther into the galactic center. With the help of the Mantis, the starship is recovered. Killeen destroys the supermech before leaving Snowglade.

In Tides of Light, Killeens story continues. The Argo finds the shattered planet New...

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Great Sky River Ideas for Group Discussions

One of the complaints leveled against many works of science fiction is that the aliens and artificial intelligences who appear in the genre...

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Great Sky River Literary Precedents

Benford is writing within one of the most heavily worked traditions of science fiction — the story which expresses the fear that humanity...

(The entire section is 262 words.)

Great Sky River Related Titles

Great Sky River is a logical extension of Benford's earlier novels, especially those in the Nigel Walmsley series, which take place in...

(The entire section is 107 words.)