The Annals of the Heechee

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Robinette is a machine-stored intelligence. Upon his physical death, his mental being was stored in a memory cube. From this center, he is able to manipulate machines and to use all accessible communication networks as his “senses.” This technology extends the life of consciousness almost infinitely.

The Heechee are another humanoid race, more advanced than humans. In their early search for intelligent life, the Heechee found evidence that an unknown life form, the “Foe,” seemed to be systematically destroying other intelligent species. Having located the Foe in high energy clouds, the Heechee joined with humans in keeping watch, awaiting a possible invasion. The action consists of a chain of somewhat improbable events by which humanity and the Heechee open communication with the Foe. Spies on Earth give away their presence when they report back by radio.

It has been determined that the Foe seem bent upon redesigning the universe, for its present end state will be entropy, the end of all life. In the span of cosmic time, the Foe plan to return the universe to a state close to the beginning of the “big bang,” a more congenial environment for beings of almost pure energy. Unfortunately, this state is inimical to organic life.

A central theme of the novel is the desire to escape the death of consciousness. While Robinette confronts this problem on an individual level, the Foe confront it on a cosmic level. Seriousness of theme, combined with a witty if sometimes tedious narrative and with extrapolations from contemporary cosmology and computer science, make this an interesting book.