Artificial intelligence has been developed to a point where human intelligence can be uploaded into a computer, achieving a sort of hybrid immortality. Astronaut Christian Brannock welcomes this technology that will make it possible for him to achieve his dream and explore the stars.
A billion years later, Brannock is dispatched to Earth to check on some strange anomalies. While there he meets Laurinda Ashcroft, another hybrid upload. Brannock and Laurinda join forces and investigate Gaia, the supermind dominating the planet, and learn the truth of her terrifying and secret plans for Earth...
Winner of the John W. Campbell Award for best novel, 2001
With this brilliantly conceived novel, Grand Master Anderson flings his long-time audience beyond his Starfarers and Boat of a Million Years, into a far-future extrapolation of human destiny that sings praises to the power of human love. After a long career of solar-system exploration, astronaut Christian Brannock achieves man-machine immortality by allowing his personality to be uploaded into an artificial intelligence that can probe the galaxy. Two centuries later, on the brink of Earth's next Ice Age, Laurinda Ashcroft, a human interface to Terra Central, similarly chooses to merge with the supercomputer that millions of years later becomes an element of Gaia, the Earth's artificial intelligence, itself a rebellious node of the galactic brain. As Earth's sun begins to fail, the node Wayfarer, in which Brannock's consciousness resides, must determine if humanity's mother world should be saved, though Gaia seems strangely determined to let it perish. When Wayfarer sends Christian to investigate strange hints about a secret Gaia may be hiding, Christian and Laurinda, ghostly memories of the man who went to the stars and the woman who remained on Earth, take virtual human shape, and the tender love that they find together as they probe Gaia's various alternative realities of human civilization reenacts the union of sky and earth that anchors all human mythologies. By humanizing the inhuman, Anderson comes breathtakingly close to speaking the unspeakable, the meaning of human existence. Deftly moving from one utterly convincing vignette of future human society to another, blending them into one profoundly moving fictional entity with reverence for the undying human thirst for knowledge and the pain that must accompany human achievement, Anderson's narrative soars, as unfettered as an exalting dream.