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Nearly 700 pages long, this massive novel is, curiously, the least ambitious or compelling entry in Dickson's continuing ""future history"" Childe Cycle. (Necromancer; Tactics of Mistake; Soldier, Ask Not; Dorsai!). As series veterans will recall, the genetic superman Donal Graeme forcibly united Old Earth with the specialist colony worlds--psychic Exotics, religious Friendlies, soldier Dorsal, etc.--but then realized that all his efforts had failed to change basic human nature. Now, some years later, a new galactic conflict is shaping up. The multi-talented, crossbreed Others, led by the charismatic Bleys Ahrens, are, mobster-fashion, slowly assuming control; opposition is scattered and ineffectual. (Bleys embodies the regressive, anti-evolution aspect of humanity's racial unconscious.)Then along comes young super-hero Hal Mayne, who must go through various rites of passage before confronting Bleys: character-building; self-examination; humanizing himself by understanding the needs of ordinary mortals (as Donal Graeme failed to do). Indeed, finally coming into his full powers, Hal realizes that he is a reincarnatinn of Donal but without Donal's limitations. So, representing the progressive, pro-evolution side of humanity, he begins to orchestrate the opposition to Bleys' totalitarianism, using his major weapon and research tool: the vast, invulnerable, computerized library of the title. Some of the episodes here, illustrating Hal's journey to enlightenment, qualify as vintage Dickson; unfortunately, however, the ratio of chat to action worsens steadily--with little drama in the confrontations and no final battle. Worse yet, Dickson's simple-minded, repetitious spelling-out of his human-evolutionary ideas bogs things down badly, as does the heavygoing symbolism, All in all: a longwinded and disappointing addition to a distinctive series.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Tor--dist. by St. Martin's