Few writers possess Gregory Benford's extraordinary array of talents. As a scientist, he is intimately involved in the latest advances in experimental and theoretical physics. His scientific work has earned him international honors, including election to the Royal Astronomical Society. Yet Benford is also an award winning novelist, remarkable for communicating cutting-edge science with crystal clarity in stories that probe the human heart as well as the farthest reaches of space and time. Now Benford brings us a near future in which humanity's vaunted intellect and technology, its courage and imagination, will be put to the ultimate test against a godlike being billions of years old.
Dr. Benjamin Knowlton heads the High Energy Astrophysics (enter, a prestigious research facility devoted to the interpretation of astronomical data. He stands at the apex of his profession, respected by his peers and involved in research with the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the universe. But Benjamin has no cause to celebrate. His beloved wife and colleague, Charming, an ex-astronaut turned astronomer, is dying of cancer. She has only a few months to live.
Then an anomalous signal from a remote probe alerts Benjamin to the presence of a wandering black hole beyond the orbit of Pluto. Though its trajectory will take it through the solar system, the singularity poses no threat to Earth-on the contrary, it may hold answers to the most fundamental questions of physics. But when an encoded message is received from the block hole, excitement turns to astonishment and apprehension. The thing is alive, intelligent, its mind residing in powerfully fluctuating fields of electromagnetic energies that radiate outward from its infinitely dense core. And it wants a (loser look at Earth...and its inhabitants.
The entity -- dubbed the Eater for its habit of devouring everything in its path--proves eager to share its vast knowledge, accumulated in the course of explorations that began long before life arose on Earth. In exchange, it seeks to learn about human art, culture, and science. The world is charmed by the seemingly beneficent alien. Even Channing is infused with fresh strength and purpose.
But gradually a terrifying truth about the singularity emerges -- a truth almost too awful to comprehend. Now, as the world waits, Channing volunteers to undertake a desperate gamble: a one-to-one confrontation with the Eater.
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