Fourth of a projected six-volume series (The Judge of Ages, 2014, etc.) charting the future history of an Earth threatened by almost inconceivably advanced alien invaders.
Two rival post-human supergeniuses, boorish libertarian Menelaus Montrose and supercilious totalitarian Ximen del Azarchel, laid plans against the Hyades and then retired into suspended animation to await the result. They awaken, eager to learn whether humanity defeated the Hyades, as Montrose hoped, or were found worthy of being slaves, as was del Azarchel’s intent. The truth, when they finally learn it—after what seems like hundreds of pages of tedious bickering—proves disastrous for both, since whatever they do, they seem constrained to carry out the Hyades’ designs. Worse, another invasion threatens, this time by the Hyades’ bosses, the Cahetel. Montrose prepares an elaborate fleet to combat them, while del Azarchel begins a process to transform the planet Jupiter into an intelligence 250 million times smarter than a baseline human. Montrose and del Azarchel will fight yet another duel. And at the end of it all, 17,000 years remain before a third post-human, Princess Rania, over whom they are fighting, returns from the remote globular star cluster where she has gone to confront the Hyades’ bosses’ bosses’ bosses. Once again Wright provides plenty of intellectual food for thought, with a useful chronology as an appendix, the intent being to emulate such works as Olaf Stapledon’s classic Last and First Men. Inevitably, what plot there is deteriorates into a series of revelations that test the characters—and challenge those readers tenacious enough to stick with it, especially knowing they’ll wait two more books before finding out what happens and who gets the girl.
Impressive, with dull intervals, but for the committed only.