Shadows of Eternity by Gregory Benford
10/19/21; 496 pages
Shadows of Eternity by Gregory Benford is a highly recommended science fiction novel set two centuries in the future and spanning decades.
"Humanity has established a SETI
library on the moon to decipher and interpret the many messages from
alien societies we have discovered. The most intriguing messages are
from complete artificial intelligences... Ruth, a beginner
Librarian, must talk to alien minds—who have aggressive agendas of their
own." Important: read the post-script, which shares discussions between Benford and Poul Anderson,
before the novel as it will provide background information for the
actual plot. Also, keep in mind that the format is a collection of short
stories rather than a continuous novel.
What I wanted was a hard science fiction space opera following Ruth's
work within the SETI library on the moon, discoveries, and subsequent
travels, and Benford provided this. The actual format of Shadows of Eternity,
however, was a bit of a surprise. It is really a series of short
stories following Ruth's start as a Librarian, showcasing some of her
subsequent work with alien messages, and then the main encounter that is
still broken into shorter stories. The stories are all revolve around
Ruth and the SETI library (until the last one), but, as with any novel
that is told in this manner, characters are left behind and story lines
are left without a resolution.
This disjointed flow of the novel represented in the collection of
stories, rather than an ongoing space saga, is part of what I really
didn't want. Additionally, the character of Ruth was not all that
appealing and I don't think Benford's writing in the voice of a female
main character was entirely successful or believable here. There were
several scenes and actions that were off-putting and really added
nothing to the plot. The latter stories in the novel were more
interesting, but as a whole this was an uneven novel. Benford has been a
favorite novelist for years. While Shadows of Eternity showcased many of the reasons why, it needed some more editing or a firmer direction and separation of parts. 3.5 rounded up
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Gallery/Saga Press via NetGalley.