ARTIFACT by Gregory Benford
Kirkus Star


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From the author of Timescape: a surprising and agreeable blend of archaeology, politics, and sf physics--in a well-turned, scary near-future thriller. In Greece, attractive, independent archaeologist Claire Anderson is investigating a bronze age Mycenaean tomb when she discovers a mysteriously concealed cube of black rock--oddly marbled, indecipherably inscribed, certainly important. But, because of escalating anti-Americanism in Greece (wobbling toward militaristic communism), the diggers must leave. So Claire arranges for a quick inspection of the cube by MIT professor John Bishop--who helps her hijack the artifact, whisking it off to MIT for examination. The upshot? Well, to their astonishment, the MIT scientists find an unknown particle trapped within the cube: it's microscopic in size but so super-heavy that it has all the matter-disintegrating properties of a tiny black hole! Furthermore, the trapped particle had a twin which was jarred loose during the hijack; that twin is now tunneling through the Earth, seeking reunion with the particle in the cube; an uncontrolled union of the particles could result in a catastrophic nuclear explosion. So, with US backing, Claire and John return to Greece with the cube--only to be trapped in a tomb by a Greek military villain: while a battle rages above-ground, the twin particle rises into the tomb, zipping back and forth as it spews radiation. Taut, satisfying, often fascinating--less adventurous (and less demanding) than Benford's extraterrestrial sf, but broader in appeal, with a special boost from Benford's accurate, telling accounts of scientists at work.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1985
Publisher: Tor--dist. by St. Martin's