When Hawaii-based physicist Benjamin Knowlton discovers a peculiar interstellar object of inexplicable properties, his old
rival, Britisher Kingsley Dart, invites himself along for a look. Dart, a competing theorist, was also once involved with Benjamin's
wife, Channing, a former astronaut now dying of cancer. The object, it emerges, is a black hole with the mass of the Moon but
a diameter of only a few yards. But this Eater—it consumes the objects it encounters—is intelligent . . . and heading for Earth!
When Eater opens communications, the mysterious U Agency takes over Benjamin's operation, though Dart, an expert politician,
arranges to play a leading role. Eater, billions of years old, has consumed many civilizations. It demands downloads of human
minds and transmits details of the brain-destroying techniques it wants used. The American government decides to attack Eater
with nukes, arranging for China to take the blame if the attempt fails. Undamaged and unhoodwinked, however, Eater devastates
huge swaths of the US. Channing, near death, decides to be uploaded into a probe where she can approach Eater and perhaps help
direct another attack on it. Eater, meanwhile, delivers a list of the minds it wants: both Benjamin and Kingsley appear on it.
Events build toward a tense and thrilling conclusion.
Physicist Benford (The Martian Race, 1999, etc.) has a knack for portraying scientists and how they work: mind-bogglingly
hard SF drama recounted with flair and verisimilitude.