Read In the Ocean of Night by Gregory Benford Online


Contains Introduction EssayCover Artist: Don Dixon2019: NASA astronaut Nigel Walmsley is sent on a mission to intercept a rogue asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Ordered to destroy the comet, he instead discovers that it is actually the shell of a derelict space probe - a wreck with just enough power to emit a single electronic signal...2034: Then a reply is heardContains Introduction EssayCover Artist: Don Dixon2019: NASA astronaut Nigel Walmsley is sent on a mission to intercept a rogue asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Ordered to destroy the comet, he instead discovers that it is actually the shell of a derelict space probe - a wreck with just enough power to emit a single electronic signal...2034: Then a reply is heard. Searching for the source of this signal that comes from outside the solar system, Nigel discovers the existence of a sentient ship. When the new vessel begins to communicate directly with him, the astronaut learns of the horrors that await humanity. For the ship was created by an alien race that has spent billions and billions of years searching for intelligent annihilate it.In the Ocean of Night is a 1977 hard science fiction novel by Gregory Benford. It is the first novel in his Galactic Center Saga. It was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1977. It was first published as a novelette in the May/June 1972 edition of Worlds of If Science Fiction....

Title : In the Ocean of Night
Author :
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ISBN : 9780446611596
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 448 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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In the Ocean of Night Reviews

  • Dirk Grobbelaar
    2019-04-23 21:19

    Benford works with a fascinating concept here.In the Ocean of Night was first published in episodic format, before the pieces were cobbled together to form this first novel in the Galactic Centre series. It’s a good novel too. However, there is a problem with the pacing, undoubtedly because of its episodic origin. The novel consists of a number of separately defined timeline sequences, which makes sense given the plot progression. It is heavy stuff all round, but the problem lies with the second sequence, which might have been OK if it wasn’t for the fact that the preceding sequence was so exciting. Too much of a counter point here, I daresay. Things pick up after that, though, and Benford is a very good writer. He is also a scientist, so he knows how to sell a concept. In the end, all is forgiven as the novel gradually rebuilds momentum until culminating in some fine Science Fiction. The characterisation of Nigel Walmsley is also worth a mention.It does set up the rest of the Galactic Centre series nicely. You just know things are bound to get hardcore from here.So what’s it all about? Well – quite a bit, it turns out. The novel is deceptively dense, but deals with a theme that is not unfamiliar in Sci-Fi today, namely that of a universe filled with Machine Intelligence (as opposed, perhaps, to Organic Intelligence, and why this might be so), and, well, first contact, evolution and war (among other things). Or is it a novel about one man’s obsession? You decide. There is also the question of the Chicken and the Egg...Heavy on philosophy and science, In the Ocean of Night also touches on some themes that are reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I will admit that it affected me in a way that few books do, just by pressing on some of the right buttons. The whole fascinating truth of the story only resolves in the very final pages, even though, by this time, it is shrouded in gibberish (not quite sure why Benford decided on such a cryptic approach, although I have a suspicion or two). It’s a shame about the pacing issue, because that’s probably the only reason I’m not giving it five out of five stars.

  • Gendou
    2019-05-04 18:35

    Started off strong with asteroids and mysterious aliens, but then, near the end... Big-foot. I'm not even kidding. Big-foot.50% Intriguing science fiction25% Inter-personal relationships that are at least mildly interesting20% Lame social and religious blah blah 4% Random digressions into poetry (yeah, I don't quite get that) 1% Big-foot... No, seriously!

  • John
    2019-04-26 19:12

    A third way through the book I had to put it down, this rarely happens to me. I tried very hard to read it, if you put the $’s down to buy you want read it. I must preface this review with the fact I’m an emotional void in true life and books … getting involved in relationships real and written should be avoided at all costs. I also spent a number of years in the Army, thus hippies, holding hands and singing in circles with happy clappers, existentialist god and mung bean books leave me cold. (I do like chick peas and lentils though) In my defence I was looking for SciFi, in front of me I had a book from a previous author I remember liking from my dim past and a very pretty cover that screamed my needs are about to be meet. I consider I was misdirected than I chose poorly. The intro mentioned all the SciFi I was looking for, derelict ship, first contact and the fact the aliens want to wipe us out … Plus it has won prestigious awards … not a single mention of a single mung bean … Great I think! Imagine my surprise when a third way through the book I’ve already had to literally skip most of the chapters since they involve personal relationship and god rubbish that for the life of me I cannot see being relevant to a hard scifi book .. I want to hear about aliens, not your dying wife, girlfriend and sex scenes .. ???? At my surrender point I decided to read the reviews, not something I normally do as we all have different views on good and bad writing ….. a number of reviewers said he put bigfoot into the book as well ????Not saying it is a bad book or badly written, but for the first third of the book I endured I can say it is not one for me. Possibly if I was more in-touch with my inner woman?

  • M Hamed
    2019-04-24 17:38

    loved the lifting sweep as a misty dust of snow sprang up beneath the machine like chiming crystals attempting to fly anew—farewell—this unflagging energy of the mind he loved the most as each sense in turn made a fresh grab at the greased pig which was the world even as he waves upward at the veiled white faces receding,a good representation of the incoherence ,that is this book

  • Vincent Stoessel
    2019-05-04 15:20

    Don't stop here!This initial book of the series is the weakest in the series, but it should not discourage you from continuing with the series which is quickly becoming my one of favorites. There are some that suggest you skip this first novel and jump right to volume 2. The completionist in me could never allow me to do that but looking back, I think it's a totally viable option. If you can suffer through it, you will see that Benford does begin setting the stage for a story of a much larger story that will unfold in later tales.

  • Rusty
    2019-05-17 21:26

    I bow before the master. Goodreads author Andrew Leon has been politely asking me to give Gregory Benford a chance for almost a year now. When he first asked me to, I had assumed that I already had. Back in the 90’s when I first started reading science fiction in earnest I found that the sci fi portion of my local bookstore was pretty well stocked with authors whose last name started with ‘B.’ Stephen Baxter, Greg Bear, David Brin, Ben Bova, they are probably others that I can’t recall at the moment. But I read all these guys over a period of 6 months or so. Startide Rising, Mars, The Forge of God, Ring, and I read multiple books by each of these guys. It was during a naïve time I had when what laid beyond the ‘B’s’ was a great mystery because I could never get past them when I was browsing.Anyhow, I thought I’d read Benford too, I knew the name, folks told me he was pretty good. I had him on my list of guys to read. I must have just forgotten. The second time Andrew told me to check I went out to the internet and checked his bibliography.I had never read a word of his stuff. Damn.So, I took a gander at this book, written more than 40 years ago. And held my breath. When this thing arrived I almost immediately regretted not having found him earlier. The story, as it goes, is pretty hard to lay out, as the plotting reminds me quite a bit of something Arthur C Clarke would have done, but the prose Benford used was incredibly powerful, it was full blown literary.I absolutely loved this novel. It took me a bit longer to read than I would have liked, as it felt like the sort of thing I could have knocked off in a couple of days, but other stuff kept coming up and I didn’t really have an opportunity to just sit and plow through. That didn’t stop it from being awesome.The book is written in four parts. The first takes place in 1999 when a rather large asteroid on a trajectory that leads it to Earth is being investigated by our hero, Nigel, he sees that this is really an ancient alien craft, derelict and unworking. He disobeys orders, raids it for what he can and allows it to go unencumbered. He was supposed to nuke the thing before it struck the earth, but he let it go having realized that it would not hit the earth, but skip along its outer atmosphere and fly away to never be seen again.In part two, a decade later, after taking a desk job within NASA, on the same day he discovers a working alien craft entering the sol system, his one true love in life is diagnosed with a terminal disease. And it’s right there I was hooked.I’ve thought about this book a lot as I read. I wasn’t kidding about the plotting. There is no real bad guy, and it takes place over 20 years. It’s about a guy trying to find his place in the universe, and the idiots that run the world. It was a masterpiece.Funny, I’m not sure it would get published if it were written today, and I don’t mean for the fact that it is set, more or less, on our time right now. It’s so far wrong on details, big and small, that you might think it would be hopelessly dated. But it isn’t. Benford wrote what is clearly a ‘hard’ science fiction book, and those tend to age poorly, but what this had going for it that so many others do not, is a hauntingly beautiful story.The final part, where some of the mysteries presented early in the novel are explained, the story drags a bit. It starts to get a tad new agey there too, but the weight of the previous portions of the book carried me along even after things got weird at the end. Not too badly, he wrote not only a beautiful novel, but a very philosophical one as well. It posits a universe where beings not too much unlike humans, rise and fall with startling regularity, but the machines we all build continue to live and explore long after the species that created them have passed into the night. They see humans, and other organic beings, as something to be avoided, or if necessary, exterminated. This is a 40 year old book that looks at humanity dealing with the night sky full of sentient machines, and a history of violence written all over the galaxy – and the solar system itself.Only read if you can sit and think about what’s being written. I’m a fan for life because of this book. Thank you Gregory, and thanks Andrew, for the introduction.I loved it, and can’t wait to read another of Benford’s books.

  • Nathaniel
    2019-04-29 16:23

    So, some random thoughts. First, I really need to steer clear of hard sf written in the 1970s and 1980s because the rampant sexism really bugs me. I've written about this before, when it comes to Ringworld (1970) by Larry Niven or Sundiver (1980) by David Brin. I realize that terms like "white privilege" can be really politically loaded, but for me it's not about politics. It's just about the annoyance of men who write male protagonists who treat women as nothing but sexual objects. It's fundamentally dehumanizing. In all three of these books, if the protagonist notices a woman, then you can know without a shadow of doubt he will have sex with her. Better still: she will come to him. These guys not only never get rejected, they never even have to work for it. Women exist solely and completely to service their needs. It's blatant and it's repugnant. I'm tired of it.It's not just the sexism, though. It's the obnoxious arrogance of the Omnicompetent Man. No matter what happens, the protagonists in these books always have to be the smartest person in the room. Everyone else is treated by the prose with thinly veiled contempt with the possible exception of sidekicks, who are still treated with contempt but it's more thickly veiled. They are always sure of themselves and they are always right. It makes for repulsive protagonists and boring prose. Whatever the main character speculates--no matter how thin the evidence or tenuous the reasoning--is going to be right. Not just basically correct, but perfectly, ultimately, transcendentally correct. And everyone else won't just be wrong, they'll be stupid. (Especially if you're religious. Which is bizarre because the main character becomes some kind of a weird spiritualist at the end, but whatever.)I'm tempted to go into psychoanalysis of what it would take to write prose like this, but I won't. It's also possible I've been spoiled by modern sensitivities and might simply not have noticed it. But, again, it doesn't feel like a kind of benign sense of superiority. This book, like the others I've mentioned, just reeks of smugness and arrogance.So why three stars instead of 2? Well, Benford takes a real stab at literary prose and, in places, it works. There are passages that are actually quite nice. The problem here is that he has a couple of tricks that he uses again and again and again. For example, staccato series of present participles can be arresting in small doses, but if I had to hear one more series like "Hand falling. Brow furrowing. Sweat glistening. Cow mooing. Car zooming." I might have seriously had to start drinking. The overall plot is also pretty cool. It's am ambitious work with lots of threads. The threads don't make a lot of sense, sure, but I respect the attempt. Mostly, though, I just really enjoyed the first 1/3 or so of the book. It totally went off the rails after that and took far, far too long to move the plot forward, but I'm tempted to read the next one (after a long hiatus) just to see where the series goes.I'll probably just read the Wikipedia entry instead, though.

  • Fred
    2019-05-10 18:13

    A nicely written sf novel, showing a heavy and positive influence from the new wave works of the late sixties.This is basically a first contact story with a fair amount of soft sf content, including religious fanatics, sexual experimentation, and some attempts at prose poetry. None of this "experimental" material is so poorly carried off that it damages the work; in fact it would not be nearly as good without it.Many reviewers have expressed dislike for the sexual content in the novel; I would defend it as being consistent with other sf of the time, and ultimately not damaging to the narrative.Other writers more successfully used these literary tropes, including Joanna Russ, Barry Malzberg, and JG Ballard; this novel is what happens when a scientist tries to be an English major. The result is a great improvement over the Cambellian hard SF of previous years; with Benford I feel like I got good science speculation without the embarrassment of poor SF writing. All in all a likeable SF novel, but personally I find the work of Robert Charles Wilson to be indebted to and ultimately superior to this work. I will probably not continue this series but I do look forward to reading Timescape by Benford on the Pringle list. Good.

  • Charles Daney
    2019-04-28 15:34

    Before discussing the book itself, it seems appropriate to consider its theme, which is pretty simple and familiar: humans vs. artificial intelligence. That's a conflict that has been envisioned for a long time – at least since the middle eastern golem folklore, followed by works such as Frankenstein and The Island of Dr. Moreau. At present, with the rapid technological progress of computer-based AI, the opposition between humans and "intelligent machines" ("robots") is as heatedly debated as ever. That conflict could become even more intense, especially if the machine side is ultimately represented, as this book postulates, by "things" whose origins (not hinted at explicitly in the present work) aren't of this planet.The question in all this that's often not addressed is why a conflict should exist at all. Is it a contest over scarce natural resources? Is it simply that the "machines" are so far advanced that humans are hardly any more important in their regard than amoebae are to humans? The book discussed here is the initial volume in a series (known as the "Galactic Center Saga") of 6 (or 7, counting a novella at the end). It drops hints at a different possibility: Perhaps these intelligent machines view any form of biological life as a malignancy that threatens the peace and tranquility of the entire galaxy.There is a plausible argument for this point of view. The book only hints vaguely at it, and certainly doesn't spell it out. So let's examine it here. Biological life as we know it cannot appear instantaneously out of a physical, chemical process. Instead it must pass serendipitously from its earliest appearance (which we still can only guess at) through a period of evolution that (probably) lasts several billion years. Along the way, the mechanism of the process itself imprints distinct and contradictory tendencies on all, or almost all, successful species that put in an appearance.On the one hand, in the Darwinian formulation, there is "survival of the fittest". That is, because resources are usually scarce, or at least expensive to access, there is an inevitable competition between – and within – most species for consumption of the existing resources of a particular environment. And the scarcer the resources, the more intense and possibly destructive is the competition. Exactly which physical and behavioral characteristics contribute most to survival are highly variable over time, depending on the specific nature of the total ecosystem: the available resources and the nature of the species present. But what is constant is the potential for intense competition and conflict in order for the "fittest" to survive.On the other hand, biologists in the past few decades have come to appreciate (as Darwin apparently didn't), that cooperation among the individuals of a species – and also among species that may be quite different from each other – can have significant survival value. The value of cooperation within certain species, such as ants and humans, is fairly apparent. In such species, for instance, there's a division of labor in which each individual behaves in ways that are specific to the individual yet promote the survival of the species, or a subgroup of it, as a whole.Unfortunately, the problem with cooperation is that it's not stable over time. As the availability of necessary resources varies, intense stresses can arise if resources become difficult or expensive to obtain. Especially in the presence of such stresses, it will usually be advantageous for a few individuals (or species) to "cheat" or "defect" from behavior that benefits the group (or the species or even allied species) as a whole in order to secure scarce resources for themselves. (The "prisoners' dilemma" is a very simple example.) But even when stresses are low, some individuals will still be tempted to "cheat" or "defect" – simply because evolution has favored such behavior at some times in the past. (Widespread cheating, of course, is eventually disadvantageous – but individuals who cheat often do better in the short term, and have more offspring, until their behavior is common enough to be suppressed.)Net result: conflict and destructive competition can arise whenever the equilibrium between the opposed tendencies of cooperation and aggression is disturbed for any reason. The process of evolution that all biological life forms undergo essentially guarantees such a possibility. There will be times when the cheaters use violent, destructive means to have their way. In short, evolved biological life can't be trusted not to spoil galactic tranquility by defecating copiously all over the neighborhood from time to time.The book doesn't make any of this very explicit. But something like this might be what the machine intelligences assume – and further, that they have originated in such a way as to avoid any evolutionary predisposition to exhibit hostility and aggression among themselves. Not having read any of the sequels Benford wrote, I don't know if this idea (or some alternative explanation) is proffered. However, this "Galactic Center Saga" doesn't seem to be as highly esteemed as other works in the science fiction world. (For instance, there are Wikipedia articles on only the first 3 volumes of the series.) It could be that the series, like the first volume, comprises much sound and fury, but signifies nothing much in particular. Regarding this first volume, I don't have a lot more to say. The plot has definite essential elements of complexity, suspense, and surprise. (Sasquatches even put in a brief appearance, along with the suggestion they have benefited from earlier alien encounters.) And the prose flows smoothly, even elegantly at times. But overall, the book seems like a small collection of related short stories (which, apparently, is how it originated). It's short enough (a little over 300 pages) to sustains a reader's curiosity about "what happens next". But it's not quite a compelling, memorable read that could have arisen from a more consistently developed central vision.

  • Jess Cattanach
    2019-05-04 20:20

    My favourite thing about this book has got to be Nigel Walmsley. He's probably one of my favourite characters in fiction, ever. He's such a fun main character: very passionate but at the same time extremely cynical, which makes for a lot of amusing scenes. The storyline of this book is a very interesting one and I enjoyed the other characters too: Mr Ichino and Nikka are fun, and I was surprised at the emotional depth that was involved with Alexandria's storyline. I didn't really expect emotions in this book. Learning about the Snark was fascinating, and I really enjoyed the scenes with it.Every scene that involves Nigel coming in contact with someone of the New Suns is pure gold.I'll definitely be checking out the rest of the series.

  • Simon
    2019-04-23 19:32

    A series of episodes dealing with man's first contact and one man's struggle against those elements of humanity who would sooner destroy or supress aliens than welcome or attempt to learn from them.However, the aliens turn out to be quite different than he expected and subject to as much fear and petty mindedness as humans are.

  • Frank Taranto
    2019-04-28 16:36

    The first in a series, have to reread this to see if the series is worth getting into.

  • Leisha Wharfield
    2019-05-10 15:16

    I still think about this book. Dr. Benford is the author of my favorite poem of all time, "Blood on Glass," and I am a poet. I want it to be read at my funeral. I also respect and admire the scientific, if dystopic, branch of his work best expressed in Deep Time, so I am predisposed to like him. That said, I applaud his three-dimensional, spiritually challenged characters, the sentience of his landscapes, his erudite exposition, and his compelling narrative. My advice? Read Dr. Benford's work whenever you can.

  • layanne
    2019-05-15 17:22

    white british dude whose only personality trait is getting irrationally angry at complete strangers about religion goes from being in a polyamorous relationship with two women to getting a petite Japanese manic pixie dream girl to fall in love with him via impressing her with weed? and being incredibly patronizing towards her. (and of course those three women are the only ones in the entire novel) plus the occasional misogynistic introspection from the pretentious white british dude. the scifi stuff is okay, standard machines vs organics stuff, ending made 0 sense.

  • Ray Gardener
    2019-05-10 17:29

    It was okay. The third act got a little strange and the ending was mysterious. Some interesting ideas, good character development.As for the series, I'm skeptical of the whole machines-fighting-people idea. If machines have enough intelligence to build themselves, then they probably have enough to rapidly self-evolve until their powers become godlike and any fight with us would be hopelessly in their favor.

  • Niall519
    2019-05-20 17:20

    Dreary, mysoginistic crap. Combining all the very worst aspects of Clarke, Asimov, and Heinlein, with nothing that made any of those three any good.I thought Heart of the Comet was pretty bland when I read it way back when, but this set impressive new lows.Back to the second hand bookshop with you, book, and I'm not even bothering to crack open the sequel.

  • Roddy Williams
    2019-05-06 18:14

    ‘2019: NASA astronaut Nigel Walmsley is sent on a mission to intercept a rogue asteroid on a collision course with earth. order to destroy the comet, he instead discovers that it is actually the shell of a derelict space probe – a wreck with just enough power to emit a single electronic signal…2034: Then a reply is heard. Searching for the source of this signal that comes from outside the Solar System, Nigel discovers the existence of a sentient ship. When the new vessel begins to communicate directly with him, the astronaut learns of the horrors that await humanity. For the ship was created by an alien race that has spent billions and billions of years searching for intelligent life… to annihilate it.’Blurb from the 2004 Aspect paperback editionNigel Walmsley (an astronaut of British origin) is on a mission to bomb and fragment the asteroid Icarus. Until now it has been in an eccentric but stable orbit, when it was observed venting a plume of gas which altered its trajectory, aiming it directly at Earth.However, when entering a fissure in the asteroid to place explosives, Walmsley discovers that Icarus is not an asteroid at all, but a ship of inestimable antiquity which, with what appeared to be the last of its power, sends out a signal.Some years later another ship enters the Solar System, and Nigel is part of the team assigned to study and interact with it.Meanwhile, one of his partners, Alexandria (Walmsley is in a troilistic relationship with two women) is diagnosed with a potentially fatal pollen-related condition.A new religion, The New Sons – a gallimaufray of pre-existing religious concepts – is gaining recruits at an alarming rate.Nigel and his team manage to contact the machine intelligence controlling the alien ship and when Alexandria dies, she is briefly resurrected and ‘possessed’ by the alien who wishes to experience life upon Earth.When Alexandria dies, the US President arranges – against Nigel’s better judgement – to cripple or destroy the alien ship in order to learn the secrets of their technology. When this fails, the ship leaves, but the wreckage of another ship is then discovered on the Moon and once more Nigel is recruited to help investigate its secrets.It’s not clear why Benford chose to make his hero British, and ‘Nigel Walmsley’ reminds me of one of A Bertram Chandler’s Rim novels in which the hero is called ‘Derek’. We know Nigel is British only because he says ‘bloody’ and ‘bugger’ a lot, occasionally in completely the wrong context.‘Bugger All!’ for instance, as people in the UK will know, means ‘nothing’ and is never used as an exclamation. It’s a small quibble, but one would have thought that at the time of writing, and certainly when the book was being revised for republication, that Benford would have asked someone British to read through it and check the dialogue for authenticity.On a more positive side, this is one of Benford’s best novels. One can’t help comparing Benford with Greg Bear since they are both scientists and tend to have a similar style. Neither do they shy away from confronting issues of import within contemporary society such as the chasm which exists between science and religion, or the dangers of having the church dictate government policy. Not having read the 1977 original version of this novel it’s not clear how much of the ‘New Sons’ aspect of the book has been revised, although it’s arguably far more of an issue today than it was in the Seventies. I would go so far as to say it’s a shame that Benford did not make this a Christian Right movement since it seems a bit far-fetched to imagine that a new religion would have overthrown Christianity in the States in such a short time. The Mormons have taken over a hundred years to achieve a significant population. Scientologists might have worked, although I suspect that law suits would have been on Mr Benford’s doormat before his publisher had read the last page.The science, as always, is faultless and the characterisation is generally good. One certainly empathises with Walmsley’s frustration with the government, NASA, bureaucracy and the interference of the ‘New Sons’. One could argue that the novel suffers from a lack of cohesion since it’s arguably a book of two parts. Once ‘the Visitor’ has left, we move on to the crashed ship on the moon, which opens up a completely different can of worms involving alien tinkering with human evolution and Bigfoot, of all things.Does this matter? Maybe not. After all, why should SF, generally thought of as the pariah of literary genres, be bound by the strictures of traditional literary formats?Is it an enjoyable novel? Yes, it is. There have been far worse SF novels before, and some execrable ones since, and the only real criticism I can find is that Benford is obviously capable of being among the very best, but seldom seems to go that extra mile.

  • Julius Butcher
    2019-05-18 14:14

    Attention: spoilers ahead!When I purchased this title I made a mistake: I didn't check the date of the first publication. I listened to the audio book, which was published in 2012. Into one third of the story I started to suspect that the original book is older than my daughter, and later my suspicion was confirmed by mention of microfilms used in 2034. I should have known better to check the reviews more thoroughly before buying it. In the Ocean of Night was born in 1972. Almost as old as me. It's not that I'm against old books, but I pick them only if I want to be nostalgic. Otherwise I prefer books of this century. The story, however, started well, right into hard science fiction, astronauts discovering an alien artificial asteroid. Just what I wanted. But then the author made me jump fifteen years, to arrive into the daily life of the astronaut who made the first contact. The family setup was interesting, I must say, a blossoming triangle of a man and two woman, enjoying the threesome love-life. Besides that, a family drama unfolded in front of me, with the sadness of one of the partners having cancer. Oh, as a subplot, some slow development happened concerning an alien automated spaceship called Snark passing by. But not much. The story seemed to speed up when the Snark started to communicate through a medical implant, and resurrected the said partner. I thought "yes, real science-fiction, finally". It didn't last long, though. The alien spaceship left the Solar system running from a missile. Why, of course the US government had to shoot at it, it's standard Hollywood procedure.Then there was the wreck of another alien spaceship on the moon, which almost caused the death of the character who stumbled in its shield by chance. Space accident. Fight for life. Good stuff. But then jump again, and now I was discovering the alien ship's computer. Oh, the ship lowered its shield sometime in between, but I never learned how and why. Anyway, there was the promise of hard sci-fi again. But what I really got was description of dull images downloaded from the alien computer. Boring. I wondered why the scientists didn't go exploring the ship. Yes, they told me that it was dangerous, and they had plenty of time, it wasn't going anywhere. Serious? It was an alien ship, for god's sake!And then came Mr Itchino (I hope I spell it right after hearing), who went to play being a hermit in the woods on the hillside. But only after that I had to listen to all the wonders of singing birds and landscapes he was amazed of. Did I mention boring? After an agonizingly long time he finally learned about the secret of the mountain: Bigfoot existed. No kidding. Mr Grave saw them, they shot at him with their laser gun.By this time I listened to the audiobook at x1.25 speed to get over it quicker. I still had my hope that there will be an amazing ending. False hopes.Mr Walmsley suddenly was sucked into the alien computer, and the aliens told him everything he wanted to know, and he told me some of it. While chopping wood on the hill. For Mr Itchino. In an elevated mental state. All of these spiced with a high literature writing style, which was odd, because it didn't match the previous part of the book.I almost forgot to mention the religious sect of the New Sons. I'm still wondering what was the author's purpose with them.I found the cover copy misleading. In the Ocean of Night promised me so much, but definitely failed to deliver. John Scalzi would be able to write this story in thirty pages, and still find the room for a little sarcastic humour of his. Some reviewers say that the next books in the series are better. I wouldn't know. I won't buy them. I go to listen to an Alastair Reynolds book instead.

  • Abhinav Neelam
    2019-04-26 17:27

    Poor. I don't know if it's just me or are - on average - 'hard' fantasy novels better than hard science fiction novels? I've been trying and trying to find *good*, unpretentious hard SF authors who don't try to bend over backwards to put in unnecessary drama into the story to accommodate critics, and I haven't moved beyond Stephen Baxter yet. Baxter too, while spectacular in his vision, had no idea how to do humour, so most of his books were filled with brooding prose.The back cover summary suggested nothing more than that 'In the Ocean of Night' was a 'first contact' SF novel - a fairly safe bet, right? What the summary doesn't tell you is that little of the book is devoted to the science and speculation. Oh - whenever they're brought out - the ideas are grand - I'll grant Benford that; unfortunately though, most of these ideas are revealed through fast forwarded exposition - and worse, often delivered as stream of consciousness prose. (Let me go off on a tangent here and just put on record how much I *hate* stream of consciousness delivery in literature. It's as painful to read as it's fun to write, judging from my own experience.) Anyway, our protagonist, a rebellious British astronaut-superscientist called Nigel Walmsley is 'possessed' by alien entities on two separate occasions, and it is only during those periods that the ideas advance. That's what is frustrating because as I said, the ideas Benford has are grand. I hope you don't find my mention of 'alien entities' tantalizing; it's nowhere as cool in the book as it sounds here. Beyond the typical first contact scenario - strange spacecraft appears - communication is attempted - crazy military try to bomb it down, there's no real development of the 'aliens', except through jarring exposition.A major chunk of the book is given to utterly mundane conversation - wait let me correct that, because mundane is all right. The dialogue in this book is mundane *and* artificial which makes it unpalatable. There's a lot of Archer-esque sex (you've been warned, kids, Benford pulls no punches) and weird futuristic (read: kinky) relationships, and sadly, Benford seems better at writing those bits than he is at writing science. The prose is poor - it's obvious that Benford is what you'd call a tortured writer who finds it hard to put that perfectly formed image in his head into words. I think the poor writing is the primary reason I didn't like this book, despite the ideas.The characters, despite the heavy amount of development, have an element of Mary Sue-esque author-fantasy-insertion to them that leaves a sour taste. Walmsley is especially irritating; I have no idea how he does what he does and gets away with it. Nikka, Walmsley's partner in the second half of the book seems to be nothing more than an author fantasy construction; Walmsley's two partners in the first half of the book were better sketched out, but were frustratingly irrelevant to the story's development.As the story progresses, a fringe cult religious group called 'the New Sons' grows to take over the role of primary antagonist. I love religion bashing as much as your average Dawkins, but even I felt that the treatment of the New Sons in this book was rather one-sided. I found myself in the strange situation of nearly, but not quite, supporting the obvious villains in the piece. (Walmsley's crusty rebelliousness didn't help either.)In summary, poor writing, poor characters, poor story development, but there're still some great ideas in this book that push it to two stars. I won't be picking up the next book in this series any time soon, though.

  • blake
    2019-05-18 18:13

    I think this is my first Benford book, and initially I was reasonably impressed. Benford can write, and this doesn't feel like a "fix-it" novel, at least not at first. It is terribly '70s, of course, but some writers have managed to overcome that.The story is somewhat diffused-feeling. Our hero is a British ex-pat named Nigel who begins by investigating an enormous object heading toward earth, one that will cause devastation when it hits. His job is to blow it up, which he's about to do when he discovers it's an alien craft. At this point, he's willing to play space chicken, in the hopes of being able to get something interesting out of the deal.Nigel, you see, is a seeker of truth who hates religion. (Man, how '70s can you get?) Or, at least any Western religion. Also, everyone else is stupid or doesn't get it.If you've followed along with my journey from A-Z, you may recall the early part of the journey where I read a lot of old time sci-fi and found myself embarrassed by the juvenility of a lot of it. By about 1961 (why'd I pick that date? who knows!) you started to see pretty much the same juvenility plus sex. In the ensuing decades, you got sex + drugs + cynicism + nihilism, and (unsurprisingly really) no particular maturity. As if the gee-whiz/can-do kids of the Golden Age had become angry adolescents who thought everyone else was nothin' but a bunch of phonies.So, as Nigel goes along, he pretty much embodies this attitude, but it's one thing to have a character be this way, and another to have the author in agreement. By the end of the book, it's starting to feel a lot like the latter. Nigel is enlightened, bodily—which is the right word for what happens, and it is as contradictory as it sounds—and what emerges is just a more competent and less unhappy version of what used to be there.In other words, the big message seems to be "I was right all along, just not capable enough to make you idiots understand".It was a little hard to finish. About 250 pages in, I began to tire of Nigel's ennui, and the '70s-ness of it, complete with (I am not joking) an alien-bigfoot tie-in, which is probably even more '70s than the recreational drug use and ascendant cults taking over the world. (The kind of funny thing about the religion-takes-over paranoia that certain writers cherish is that they it universally misses the religion that the writer himself subscribes to while denying that it's a religion.)The epilogue is particularly hard to read but I give Benford points for using a poetic, almost stream-of-consciousness style, while rejecting the notion that it reflects enlightenment very well, to say nothing rejecting of the entire premise of the book. Heh.But these are philosophical disagreements. They wouldn't keep me, necessarily, from reading any of the seven or eight sequels he wrote. In fact, the future books could redeem this one in my eyes by crystallizing the inchoate topics played with here.

  • Nicolas
    2019-05-12 18:11

    Ce livre raconte les premiers contacts entre une civilisation humaine du début du XXIème siècle (entre 2010 et 2020) avec des entités extraterrestres. Plus exactement, on découvre la vie d’un astronaute anglais, qui va vivre tous les contacts avec les étrangers et se retrouver propulsé de fait sous les projecteurs comme une sorte de héros. Une sorte seulement car dès le premier pas vers les étrangers, de nombreuses vies humaines seront perdues (majoritairement parce que le vaisseau extra-terrestre s’écrase sur Terre par sa faute). La suite de l’histoire ne sera qu’un long combat entre cet homme, aux curieuses qualités humaines, et sa hiérarchie de la NASA. A chaque étape du récit, on le retrouve en effet aux prises avec ses chefs divers et variés. Et ces luttes politiques prennent la plupart du temps le pas, avec sa vie privée, sur les découvertes et les aperçus qu’on peut avoir des étrangers. C’est assez dommage, puisque ces luttes d’influence sont somme toute stériles, et n’influent jamais sur la volonté hors du commun du héros qui ne suit que son instinct. Lequel le conduit bien évidement à des intuitions brillantes, qui vont à chaque fois permettre de sauver le travail que les politiciens auraient au minimum mis à terre. Je trouve pour ma part ce choix d’écriture franchement regrettable : Benford n’est pas toujours un très bon écrivain, et son écriture manque dans ce roman de la plupart des qualités indispensables à faire un bon roman. C’est d’ailleurs un point qu’il pourrait avoir en commun avec l’Oeuf du Dragon et Le vol de la Libellule de Robert Forward. Dans chacun de ces cas, on retrouve en effet un écrivain, qui est aussi un scientifique de pointe, aux prises avec un récit dans lequel il est bien peu à l’aise. Les formulations sont assez souvent pauvres, et l’écriture sert autant le récit que peut le faire un article scientifique. C’est, peut-être, dû aux formations des auteurs, mais ça n’en est pas moins une grave faute contre le lecteur qui trouvera au mieux l’histoire desservie par des auteurs maladroits. Malheureusement, ça n’est ici même pas le cas : l’histoire n’est pas vraiment intéressante, et est donc tout à fait adaptée à la plume assez médiocre de Benford. C’en est d’autant plus dommage qu’il s’agit du premier tome du centre galactique, et que ce tome offre des ouvertures intéressantes, qui seront développées avec peut-être plus de justesse dans, par exemple, La grand rivière du ciel, ou le conflit entre les hommes et les machines, ce dont l’auteur parle ici de l’accès au monde des essences. C’est peut-être la plus belle idée du livre, mais également la moins bien exploitée. Au final, c’est un livre qui part d’une bonne idée, mais qui est malheureusement très mal exploitée. A lire uniquement pour ceux qui sont intéressés par Le centre galactique.

  • Heather
    2019-04-24 17:11

    “A splendid, brilliant, overwhelming book. I wish I had written it. Best s-f novel I have read in years.” --- Robert Silverberg It has been awhile since I ventured into the territory of sci-fi. The wait was worth it, as I have inadvertently stumbled on a truly great, hard science fiction writer. As both a physicist and a poet, Benford combines his delivery of the conventions of sci-fi with the prose of lyricism. “Perspective defies the innate order. The handiwork of man blinds even this awesome furnace that hangs in the sky.”"In the Ocean of Night," is the first of five later books in that Galactic Center series. It took him 25 years to write them all. He gives us glimpses of the future from the vantage of the mid-1970s and even got some things right. Although one needs to transfigure some of the technologies used into their contemporary versions. The only small problem that I had with this book is that I found Nigel’s character was voiced in a British dialogue colloquialism with which I had no reference point. It however did not detract from the overall ease of reading. This gets a 4.5 from me because of the really good character development as Nigel ages and his philosophical viewpoint changes. The plot is one that transfixes the reader. The detail in hard science is not overly done and is readily managed by the reader. Other reviewers have outlined the plot. I will just say that at the end I let out an involuntary deep sigh of contentment. A satisfying read for those of the hard sci-fi bend that also like some introspection. “He stared down at the cinder world that had betrayed his hopes by being so substantial, so deadly.” “…his sentences paraded out to display a new facet of lock jawed Latinisms, words converging like a pack of erudite wolves to devour some snippet of causation …” “He had a sudden perception of death: a small thing moving in from the distance, winging slowly in the night air as she slept. Searching the house. Through a window. Into the shadowed bedroom. Silent now. Fluttering. Fluttering into her sagging mouth.” “Fresnel made a steeple of his hands, his stone rings like gargoyles.” “The looming presence sat astride the flood of perception and took it all. Before Nigel could apply the filters of his eyes, ears, skin, touch, smell – before all that, the being sponged up this new and strange world, and in the act altered it for Nigel as well.”Now I want to read the next five books in this series and I hear that the next in line, "Across the Sea of Suns," is even better.

  • Winterking
    2019-05-22 19:39

    I must admit. First, if I can’t for the life of me, get into a book, I put it away. I will not finish the story because, for whatever the reason, I just could not get into it. This book was difficult for me to get into and I would have followed my rule, only this time I was reading the book as a buddy read. My middle son picked it for us to read together. He was reading the book in ebook format and I in paperback.This was a struggle. There is so much back story regarding Nigel Walmsley’s sexual relationship with his steady girlfriend and their live in female lover. Yes it is a 3-way relationship. The story begins with Nigel in space on route to intercept and asteroid, that turns out to be some type of ship. He breaks his command instructions to destroy the thing in hopes of helping humanity with medical or scientific advancements by gathering things from the strange ship.His idea fails and he is shamed.Another craft, piloted by aliens of a sort (Don’t want to spoil things for those that want to read this.) This craft is on it’s way to earth.Well there is more time devoted to Nigel’s relationship than to the aliens approaching earth and their intentions toward us. Hell that would have great. Even Bigfoot has a cameo. Yeah in reality it was simply a cameo appearance. This was near the end of the story, and it fully drove me to really want to finish this book. Sadly it was a letdown for me. Did not like the payoff involving Bigfoot.What this story is doing though is opening up a line of communication between my son and I in regards to sexual choices regarding acts and relationships.I think this is a positive thing. At least this is how I look at it. By the way my son is not in elementary school, he’s old enough for this type of tale and I would prefer him learning sex ed from me than most of the crap they teach in school. At least his school of which my oldest son went to five years ago.In the end, this was just an okay book. I heard the others in the series are much better. I do plan to read the next book to see if this is in fact true, just not right now. I need a story that will pick me up, not bore me than offer me glimpses into an intriguing tale only to leave me wishing I had read something else and not spent so much time devoted to it.

  • John Loyd
    2019-05-04 18:24

    In the Ocean of night (1977) 333 pages by Gregory Benford.This is sort of a first contact novel, three times over, and in each instance Nigel Walmsley is on the forefront. The first part was too quick to think the book was over, but at the end of the second encounter I thought that's a good place for an ending. Then I see that this was originally published as three or four short stories/novellas. I didn't see any discontinuity, just a good stopping point. The third story picked up and built upon what had gone before.In part one an asteroid has somehow become cometlike, grown a tail, a tail which has altered it to be on a collision course with Earth. Nigel is one of the astronauts sent to blow it up so that it won't harm the Earth. He finds a crevasse, investigates, finds that it's an ancient spaceship. Goes against orders, which are to immediately blow it up. He takes it upon himself to investigate further.In the second part, 15 years later, Nigel working as a scientist in a ground based lab, JPL, is part of the discovery of the snark. In between following Nigel around, Benford gives us some of the thought process of the snark. In the third story, they find an alien spacecraft on the moon. This time Nigel is brought in to work on it after the discovery. I don't want to reveal more plot than I already have.Benford fleshes out his characters really well. We see Nigel in his home life, his relationship with his wife Alexandria, actually part of a triad with Alexandria and Shirley. Besides the triad, this future had people riding public transportation rather than cars, presumably fewer luxuries, one mention of Mr. Ichino enjoy chili with real meat rather than soy product. With this somewhat bleaker society Benford introduces New Sons, a new religion. Nigel doesn't like those new sons. Although in there the stories aren't about fixing moral issues on Earth, rather focused on the alien contact.

  • Marilena Rizou
    2019-05-04 20:41


  • David Erickson
    2019-04-24 22:37

    The novel opens with Astronaut Nigel Walmsley landing on a comet headed for a collision with Earth is a huge derelict spaceship. His decision to delay detonating a device to divert the ship’s course as he investigates does not sit well with the public.Years later as the New Sons religious organization spreads across the globe a new object arrives in the solar system: a robotic scout ship sent out by robotic societies fearful of biologicals. Because of his past encounter, Walmsley and his NASA team follow the path of the giant ship, keeping its appearance secret until it can no longer be contained.While the ship begins communicating with the NASA team, Walmsley’s girlfriend dies from disease, but is temporarily resurrected by the alien intelligence and becomes an icon for the New Sons. Eventually Walmsley is sent out to make contact, but the motivations of this aren’t clear until it is too late. What follows is a troubling story of political, social and military power as a surprising, ancient discovery is made on the Moon.It is a compelling story, rich with all the trappings of modern science fiction and personal development, while displaying human intrigue, duplicity and cross purposes.The tale is rich with detail, both internal and external, as Walmsley struggles with new found knowledge and the revelation that Mankind has a far more fragile existence than anyone had ever conceived and only a few would ever know.I was troubled as I read this narrative, disturbed by the implications of how the political and social powers that run the world would respond should we ever be faced with the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.This is well written and a somewhat slow read. There is no blinding action, though there is adventure. While I enjoyed reading it, it isn’t high on my list of awesome novels

  • Chris
    2019-05-17 14:33

    The cover sums it up nicely: blue balls.Warning, there may be a few spoilers below.There is some really cool ideas in here, but they're completely overshadowed by Benford's need to overly develop his cardboard characters. For example, many pages are dedicated to the Nigel's (the main protagonist) relationship with two other women. His feelings, how he doesn't identify with one of them when the other isn't around etc. This is fine as far as it goes, but this type of drama ends up consuming 90% of the narrative. It's not until the last 10 pages of each part of the novel when we finally get introduced to the aliens and their machines. Then Nigel explores a bit, doesn't get very far and we're no closer to learning anything new about the motives of the aliens. Then it all starts over again. Hence, blue balls.The back cover of the book states that the machines' purpose is to wipe out organic life. The fact that this little piece of information is only revealed as an off hand comment/speculation by Nigel at the very end of the book leads me to believe that the author had no idea where the story was going until years later when he decided to write a sequel - at which point he was free to pick up on any one of the myriad loose plot points thrown throughout the book.Also there are Bigfoots (yes, the hairy bipeds) that carry lasers and fly spaceships. Enough said.I really want to like this author. I love hard SF, but I just can't get past his writing and especially his characters. I picked this up at the bookstore expecting something along the lines of Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space books, but got Ed Wood instead.

  • Cynthisa
    2019-05-11 17:23

    A nice hard-sci fi novel, written by a professor of astrophysics, and it shows. Pleasant to be intellectually challenged by a book now and again. Benford's books definitely do so -- heavy on the physics and chemistry of space, a topic I never studied in school, so lots of new ideas to grappel with.... Fun! Overlooking the weak plotting (and, yes, the whole crazy 'Bigfoot thing'), I kinda both hated and loved the way Benford breaks up the heavy, factual science of the story with an inuitive, non-linear approach. I hated it cuz I'm a very linear type myself, yet also loved it because it's a more honest and realistic approach to humans and how we learn (or fail to). True scientific break-thrus often are non-linear: hunches and gut decisions. Not simple jumps from A to B to C and on to Z. Often, our understandings fail us-- we're misguided or simply wrong. Science is often that way-- clear only in the hindsight of textbook summaries and introductory chapters. So, yes, I hate the long stretches of confusion I encounter in Benford's books. But, the high-caliber writing and high-quality science make it worth the journey to soldier thru the rough patches. I don't suffer poor writing readily, I can't even list all the books I've quit after just a few chapters, but Benford has won my devotion even despite the weaknesses of this first 'novel.' I'm now nearly thru the next one (Across the Sea of Suns) and am enjoying it immensely. For those of you who've read this far and are debating whether or not to tackle the next Walmsley book, I hope you do-- you'll be richly rewarded for your efforts!

  • Rob Bradford
    2019-04-26 16:29

    A good, but flawed book. It reads as though it was written as a bunch of shorter pieces and then published as a book (which, I believe, is in fact the case). And, although that can work, it didn't really for me, at least here. They're just too uneven, and reading them in quick succession makes the inconsistencies stand out too much. I thought that many of the ideas and themes were first rate, and the characterization and prose were fine. I had trouble suspending my disbelief in Nigel's personal involvement in all of it. I recognize that this is probably a good way to tell a story across a couple of magazines to readers who won't get to see it all, but in book format, not so good.I thought that, as far as narrative structure goes, the later books were better. As science fiction...I don't know. In The Ocean of Night is a startlingly original book in many ways. The later books in the series, after Sea of Suns, also suffer from a viewpoint character who, although perhaps more heroic and likable than Nigel, has very little in common with the reader. Also, they spend a lot of time developing themes and ideas introduced in Ocean of Night, which wasn't so clear to me before I reread it, but which makes me regret rereading Ocean even more, as it lowered my opinion of the others.Still, a worthwhile read, even if I thought Timescape and Across the Sea of Suns were both much better books by Benford.

  • Neal
    2019-05-13 18:40

    Full review: the Ocean of Night started out promising, but it's "fixup" novel structure quickly began to crack through the interesting facade. What starts as a mysterious and potentially threatening first contact scenario quickly turns into a political/neo-religious read strewn with the land mines of inconsistent and broken science. For example, the main character has cybernetic implants in his brain that can allow an alien AI take over his body, but he lives in a world that still uses pagers, fax machines, and typewriters. Eventually Benford just walks off a cliff and plummets into a boiling caldera of literary magma when he links (better sit down for this one) bigfoot (yes, THAT bigfoot, sasquatch) to aliens who visited Earth in the past. He even arms them with alien tubes that spew deadly lasers. Bigfoot.."lasers." Cue Dr. Evil voice.I'm bound and determined to work my way through the Galactic Center series. I attribute the poor quality of this book to its fixup nature (and possible drug use in the 70s) and hope the follow on books are much better, because the overall premise is of interest to me.