This is an excellent story, especially for those who like a lot of hard science in their science fiction. This novella has it all: vibrant characters, very-alien intelligent machines, spaceships and wormholes...all wrapped up in a fast-paced, good guy-bad guy action extravaganza. The story takes place in a far future where "enhanced" humans living near the Galactic Center spend their lives pursued by relentless machine entities (most notably the Mantis, whom you won't soon forget). Benford has done a great job of world-building here; and he paints his fabulous, colorful 3D universe with a truly spell-binding--almost poetic--narrative flourish.
This would have to be a tie between the main protaganist Paris, a human who takes advantage of his "special" abilities to become the leader of his clan and a formidable foe to...my other favorite character, the aforementioned Mantis. Here Benford has created a very memorable super-advanced killing machine whose personaility somehow resembles Hannibal Lector: eerily cold and patently evil, with a few seriously twisted tendencies...
He reads the Mantis part well--soft-spoken, but very creepy, evil character. You can't get that by reading it yourself. Sachs also does a superb job with Benford's incredible narratives describing the Galactic Center: that material alone is worth the price of admission.
Man vs. Machine in a distant future, where survival depends on far more than instinct...
Although I read Gregory Benford's entire Galactic Center series back when it was first written, I never knew of this novella. After hearing the story, I'm absolutely going to be purchasing each of those six novels in the series, now that they've all been recently released on audio.
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