Third part of Wright’s series (The Hermetic Millennia, 2012, etc.) in which, thanks to alien technology, Texas gunslinger Menelaus Montrose transformed himself into a supergenius—and so did his rival, Ximen “Blackie” del Azarchel.
The alien slavers who provided the technology, the Domination of Hyades, will arrive in 400 years to take ownership of the Earth. All this time, Blackie has been attempting to force the development of a suitably advanced yet compliantly slave-worthy population. The two post-humans are also rivals for Rania, Menelaus’ wife, presently heading at near light speed for a remote globular star cluster in order to confront the Hyades’ bosses’ bosses. She will, of course, arrive back at Earth thousands of years too late to prevent the Hyades’ occupation, so somehow Menelaus, waking periodically from cryogenic suspension, must thwart Blackie and prevent the slavers from exterminating humanity until she arrives. Now, Menelaus discovers that the tombs where he and his allies were preserved have been ripped open and plundered by Blackie’s Blue Men minions—a situation that precipitates a battle that lasts the best part of 200 pages, and a further 100 of post-battle analysis and wrangling, leading to yet another (indecisive) showdown between Menelaus and Blackie. With nonstop if pedestrian action, villains who chortle and strut, and Menelaus’ indestructible self-confidence, it’s a sequence worthy of A. E. van Vogt’s spirit, though, alas, lacking van Vogt’s deftness or economy of style. Weird post-humans build themselves into recognizable characters. The plot devolves into a series of revelations that make sense only to the characters or, possibly, a few readers, should any still be hanging heroically on.
Dazzling, highly impressive but readable only with enormous effort.