Novel-length rewrite of Benford's story “Beyond the Fall of Night” (1990), itself a sequel to Arthur C. Clarke’s “Against the Fall of Night” (and later novel The City and the Stars).
Billions of years from now, an utterly hostile being made of magnetic fields, the Malign, frees itself after being trapped for eons in the gravity well of the supergiant black hole at the center of the galaxy. Determined to destroy all other life-forms, especially organic ones, and particularly vengeful toward those it regards as responsible for its imprisonment, the Malign heads for Earth. Here, latter-day humanity consists of a handful of Originals (they carry the most ancient human DNA still extant) and some Supras, physically and mentally enhanced to an almost incomprehensible degree. Cley, an Original, works in the vast underground data repositories known as the Library of Life. Her lover, Kurani, and other Supras investigate a phenomenon resembling a sentient electrical discharge—which kills Kurani, all the Originals save Cley, and destroys much of the data in the library. Seeker, a raccoonlike intelligent creature that clearly knows much more than it’s telling, saves Cley's life. The surviving Supras propose to clone Cley before the Original DNA is lost altogether. Cley refuses and, after a jaunt through a four-dimensional tube, flees into space with Seeker; they enjoy various adventures among creatures that inhabit the vacuum itself. But somehow, somewhere, the Malign must be confronted.
Inexplicable except in terms of a deep-seated obsession: offers few orthodox novelistic virtues, goes nowhere in particular, and despite—or maybe because of—the copious ideas based on string theory and other exotic physics, weighs a ton.