(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

These three epic novels of the distant future, part of an interconnected series of novels that began with In the Ocean of Night and that continued in Across the Sea of Suns (1984), imagine humanitys battles for survival against superior alien and mechanical intelligences near the massive, violent black hole ( the Eater) that lies at the galactic center of the Milky Way, the great sky river. The novels appeared in quick succession, first in hardcover and then in paperback editions. All take as their starting point Gregory Benfords theoretical research on the galactic central region, which he performed as a professor of astrophysics specializing in plasma physics at the University of California, Irvine. Enormously powerful forces at work near the center appear to have been driven by a vast explosion that took place there about a million years ago. Now revealed through new varieties of telescopes, these forces might well, according to Benford, support rich, complex life-forms unknown to humans in their distant corner of the galaxy. Benford believes that one more novel will be needed to complete the series.

Benfords work has been linked to the hard science-fiction tradition of Olaf Stapledon and Arthur C. Clarke, a tradition that highly prizes faithfulness to the physical facts of the universe while building new fictional worlds upon them. Like Stapledons Last and First Men (1930), Benfords trilogy is the story of the human race...

(The entire section is 488 words.)