The final chapter of humanity's future has begun and one man, Nigel Walmsley, has been alive through it all. An ancient scientist from the distant past, Walmsley had been marooned inside an anomaly of time and space. From here he recalls Earth's desperate struggle against the mechs, a violent artificial intelligence dedicated to total annihilation.
In a strange space-time continuum called the Esty, the last few survivors from humanity's ravaged planets have taken refuge, readying themselves for a final stand against their ruthless executioners.
Three generations of men stand between the mechs and total oblivion for the human race: Toby Bishop, a young warrior-in-training; Killeen Bishop, Toby's father and leader of the last remnants of humanity; and Killeen's own father, long believed dead, but now mysteriously returned to his family.
As the mechs continue to carve their swathe of destruction through the galaxy, these three men hold the sole hope for the survival of the human race.
Fifteen years ago, Benford's Timescape set the tone for the subgenre of ``hard'' science fiction that deals with quantum effects and particle physics, the discoveries and theories of which often make their fictional expressions seem more akin to fantasy than to traditional SF. Now, with this sixth and concluding volume of his Galactic Center series, Benford, a physicist himself, takes the form to either its apotheosis or its death knell. Though replete with fascinating ideas and exhilarating events that are, for the most part, elucidated with skill, the novel contains several chapters that may confound even readers who have followed the adventures of Nigel Walmsley since his initial appearance in 1977. Walmsley begins by relating his escapades to Toby Bishop, whose family is proceeding toward its destiny in the long-standing battle between organic and mechanical life-forms. The Bishop family and Walmsley are aided or impeded by several other life-forms whose roles and goals in the quest for ultimate survival are central to the story. While a reader's tenacity--which is what sets humans apart from others in Benford's conception of the universe--is occasionally tested, this novel stands as a worthy conclusion to what now should be acknowledged as the most important and involving hard SF series yet written.