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The heavy SF action starts in 2400. Space-going humanity is the most recent of lots of civilizations to be baffled by the impenetrable Kefahuchi Tract; that huge outstanding area where an unshielded singularity makes physics itself undependable. Along its available fringe, the "Beach", planetary systems are cluttered with insane, abandoned gadgets utilized to penetrate the Tract given that in the past life began on Earth. A whole dead-end culture is based on beachcombing this rubble of industrial archaeology ...
25th-century characters include a woman who's sacrificed practically everything to merge with the AI "mathematics" of a crack military spacecraft; a former daredevil who once surfed black holes but has pulled away into a virtual reality tank; the lady proprietor of the Circus of Pathet Lao, with an alien freakshow and a prejudice; and a range of raunchy, foul-smelling, gene-sculpted miscreant, some comic, some menacing. Numerous are not exactly what they appear.
In 1999 London, physicists Kearney and Tate-- remembered in 2400 as the fathers of interstellar flight-- are getting nowhere. Kearney's individual issues inhabit familiar Harrison area: city paranoia, a seedily undependable expert, bad sex, guilty routines to propitiate a metaphysical-seeming threat called the Shrander-- a pursuing image from nightmare. In the laboratory, both Kearney and Tate fear the increasing quantum strangeness of their results.
The cosmological marvels and hazards of the Beach form a background to area pursuits and violent skirmishes whose duration is measured in nanoseconds, reported in tensely lyrical prose. Ultimately everything comes together as it ought to-- even that overbearing 1999 story strand-- with discoveries, transformation, transcendence, and supreme hope. Harrison requires your complete attention and rewards it richly.--David Langford