First entry in a hypercomplicated, hard-science trilogy, from the author of Moonseed (1998), etc. After washing out of NASA’s astronaut training program, Reid Malenfant (“bad child”) sets up the Bootstrap corporation, intending to lure humans into space with the promise of the limitless natural resources available there. Sheena 5, a genetically engineered smart squid, will pilot his unmanned first mission. Though NASA and other powers-that-be attempt to shut him down, Malenfant plows ahead until he’s warned by renegade mathematician Cornelius Taine that Earth will be destroyed within 200 years. Taine persuades Malenfant to listen for messages from the future, in case someone survived and wants to tell them how. Sure enough, a coded neutrino pulse directs Malenfant’s attention to an asteroid where Sheena discovers a space/time portal. On Earth, meanwhile, an unexplainable crop of genius children, hated and feared for their differences, are herded into brutal prison camps, where they invent astonishing devices to protect themselves. A Sheena descendant ducks through the portal into the remote future and finds that humans survive forever . . . alone. Later, Malenfant enters the portal and visits many universes in different states of being. The genius kids, who turn out to be from the future, intend to transform the structure of space, destroying the current reality but producing a universe where many intelligent species exist. Malenfant, though, will survive to complete the trilogy. Too lumpy and fitful to satisfy purely as a novel, but a treat for readers who revel in scientific extrapolation taken to an almost inconceivable extreme.