Twenty-third-century exploration of Alpha Centauri, from the authors of Iris (1990). With the solar system overpopulated to the bursting point, the Daiseijin foundation has sent out starships to explore Earth's nearest stellar neighbors. After 14 years in suspended animation, Captain Ginny Qing-an, chief engineer Kai, and the rest of Mother Night's crew arrive at Alpha Centauri, discovering evidence of previous civilizations on planet Pholos. With their time scanner (the physics behind this is ingenious and persuasive), they piece together the history of not one but three intelligent races: the Frogmen; their bitter rivals, the Rhinotaurs, exterminated by the Frogmen; and the mysterious Leospiders, whom the Frogmen apparently served. After millions of years, Pholos grew old and died, but the immortal, fatalistic Leospiders built huge underground repositories of faster-than-light starships and an equally vast mausoleum to house their uncorrupted bodies. The sexually obsessed humans, meanwhile, realize that planetologist Mies Cochrane is a personality construct, programmed by his Indigo masters to sterilize his female partners by means of nanoviruses in his sperm. Brilliant extrapolations and dazzling speculations obscured by nasty, grim, manipulative sexual contortions: great ideas, disagreeable dramatics.