Fix-up (concatenation and rewrite) of five long stories, 1993–2000.
Millions of years hence, when war threatened to completely exterminate humankind, desperate faction leaders agreed to bestow godlike powers upon a few outstanding individuals. The selected ones, each all but immortal, became Families and, by enforcing order, ushered in the Ten Million Year Peace. Now, the Chamberlains are the most powerful Family; the Nuyens specialize in intrigue, the Sanchexes in violence. As part of the prolonged maturation process, youngsters play war games and gradually acquire talents and abilities. Smart, sensitive Ord, the youngest Chamberlain, grows up with cowardly schemer Xo Nuyen and brutal megalomaniac Ravleen Sanchex. Then Alice—so old she’s only the 12th Chamberlain ever—pays a surprise visit. A supremely skillful terraformer and world builder, Alice hides in the penthouse of the Chamberlain’s ancestral mansion, and for some reason will confide only in Ord. Gradually, Alice confesses that she and her associates, working in the galactic Core, attempted to create a baby universe—with disastrous results: the Core is exploding! Already billions are dead and the entire galaxy is threatened. Soon, Alice is imprisoned and stripped of her powers; the Nuyens seize their chance to have the Chamberlains and the other Families that assisted them declared outlaw. Ord, secretly equipped with many of Alice’s powers, chooses to flee the Nuyens. Somehow, he must find a way to contain, if not reverse, the damage done to the galaxy—and rescue poor Alice.
An extravagant, surprising, often astonishing odyssey from the author of Marrow (2000), etc.: challenging and bewildering in equal measure.