Final volume of Benford's stirring Galactic Center series (Furious Gulf, 1994, etc.). Using the energies of the huge black hole at the center of our galaxy, advanced alien ""Highers"" have created the ""esty,"" a region of space-time so crushed and compacted that it resembles matter. Here, many human and alien species have taken refuge from the marauding ""mechs,"" machine-beings hostile to organic life. Wise old Nigel Walmsley, once a physicist on Earth, now hundreds of years old, serves the Highers as a communications bridge to the Bishop clan, led by Killeen and his son Toby. But then the dreaded Grey Mech penetrates the esty, blasting Nigel and his family through a space-time wormhole to the unimaginably remote future, where the mechs are transforming themselves into electron-positron plasmas in order to survive the heat death of the universe. The Highers also prompt Nigel to rediscover a great secret embedded in the Bishops' genes: a set of infective computer codes that will destroy the mechs by subjecting them to intense pleasure. And so to a final showdown between clan Bishop and their unremitting mech foe, the soul-eating Mantis. Extravagantly, mind-bogglingly strange--yet it's the well-realized characters as much as Benford's astounding inventiveness that propel this amorphous drama to its utterly fascinating conclusion.