2005: as the world political situation worsens, scientific research is being inexorably squeezed into a McCarthyish national-security straitjacket. Bradley Clifford and Aubrey Philips, refugees from war-machine think-tanks, achieve a breakthrough in particle physics that enables them to create and annihilate matter--or, in terms of Hogan's fictitious unified field theory, to cotton on to some distributions of force not subject to Einsteinian limits on velocity in space-time. The plot concerns Clifford's attempts to head off military applications of his discoveries, and Hogan has a tough time recognizing the right level of exposition: after reams of ingenious and demanding ""hard"" disquisitions, he can still have three hot-shot theoretical physicists and basic researchers conducting a seventh-grade rehash of how Faraday and others ""first worked out the connection between magnetism and electricity."" The style often suffers from an analogous tone-deafness, and the political analysis is not penetrating enough to support all the noises of moral outrage. But Hogan succeeds where so many science-fiction writers fail: in creating and skillfully developing a scientific premise with enough teeth in it to be a source of pleasure rather than embarrassment.