In the Ocean of Night by Gregory Benford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When it comes to hard-SF, I'm generally of the opinion that it is almost always rooted in real science, has a big scope, and sometimes veers off into Clarkian speculative stuff that might be POSSIBLE, but generally looks like magic to the rest of us.
Back in '77, hard-SF was coming off a late-sixties, early-seventies vibe that sometimes goes philosophical, sometimes metaphysical, and often gives us that man-power vibe that was such a common silly motif back then that quickly backfired to give way to militant feminism. But this was before that time.
All of these are minor little noises that flavor -- or annoy -- readers these days. But pushing all this aside, what we have here is a solid hard-SF novel written in episodes that span 20 years. And best of all, we focus on all the neat variables of machine intelligences versus organic intelligences.
Now, for those of us who haven't grown up with the much later Neal Asher novels or Iain M. Banks novels that tend to do this all in a much more interesting and coherent fashion, I have to point to Benford as a really good example of this kind of storytelling. It's direct, deals with the problem of extinction-level intelligence events, and in the meantime remains a consistently interesting adventure.
I will not put this novel at the top of the pedestal -- for this kind of thing -- but I do think it's a good novel of its time and it laid some pretty great foundations for later writers/novels. I'm curious to see how much the series improves and how big the scope might get.
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