Huge, ponderous scientific thriller from the author of the warmly involving The Postman (1985) that grows ever-more involved and unlikely: Brin's prolonged hymn to a threatened planet. When physicist Alex Lustig creates a microscopic black hole and accidentally drops it into planet Earth, he receives the help of wealthy New Zealand philanthropist George Hutton to study and, hopefully, retrieve it. Alex's investigations, however, produce earthquakes and gravitational anomalies as an unsuspected side effect: seems that there's another black hole already inside the Earth! Moreover, while Alex's isn't big enough to do much harm (it will decay by itself), the other one is busy destroying the Earth from within! Alex, aided by astronaut Teresa Tikhana, mysterious journalist Pedro Manella, and Alex's ecologist-programmer mother, Jen, uses his black hole to accelerate the other black hole (but where did it come from? military experiments? aliens?) out of the Earth. His desperate efforts are opposed by Claire Eng, fanatical ecologist, secretive computer-whiz, and now totally mad. Claire seizes control of the world computer net; Jen steps in to oppose her, only to become a planetary consciousness; Pedro turns out to be a helpful alien; and Alex saves the day. It's not so much the improbable ideas or the jerry-built characters that do this one in, but the voluminous globe-trotter padding and Brin's failure to bring any of it into focus.