The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Bulero family has grown wealthy and powerful by marketing an immensely strong, though poorly understood, substance called bulerite, used to construct massive habitations on Earth and in space. Bulerite suddenly proves to be unstable, and bulerite structures begin exploding. These disasters trigger a nuclear war on Earth and the emergence of a strange force field that engulfs Earth and makes it uninhabitable.

Surviving members of the Bulero family—matriarch Janet, philosophy professor Sam, and heir Richard—take refuge in a space colony, the hollowed-out asteroid Asterome, which moves away from Earth to contact other surviving humans on Mars and near Jupiter. After thwarting a general’s effort to seize control of Asterome, its residents decide to travel into interstellar space, hoping that Asterome can “reproduce”—build and populate duplicates of itself—and become one of many cells in an emerging collective organism called Macrolife.

A thousand years later, John Bulero, a young clone of Sam, lives in Asterome as it moves through the galaxy but longs to experience life on a planet. When Asterome approaches Lea, a planet once colonized by refugees from Earth, he visits there, discovers a tribe of savages, and marries one of its female members. When his wife is killed by raiders and he is driven to violent retaliation, he comes to understand the brutality of planetary life and returns to Asterome. Realizing that artificial space...

(The entire section is 447 words.)