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AN UNFOLDING FUTURE WORLD OF INTERNAL TERROR

BEYOND THE FALL OF NIGHT
By Arthur C. Clarke and Gregory Benford
Ace/Putnam
298 pages, $19.95

RICHLY CRAFTED by a premier science fiction team, this extension of Clarke's novella "Against the Fall of Night" chronicles humanity's emergence from a long stagnation on a future Earth all but covered with desolation and sand.

A multipart story told first from the standpoint of the first child born in 4,000 years in the last surviving city of immortals, this book explores human psychology as much as it does the possibilities of future worlds. It deals with a race supposedly crushed by the terror of alien warfare that drove back human expansion in space -- a terror that turns out to be more internal than alien, despite the web of legends.

The story continues to unfold long years later, through different eyes, and a battle for survival that joins all life on the planet and beyond, as a long-imprisoned and malevolent mental force breaks free from a prison of time and races to a final confrontation.

Clarke and Benford create a fictional world of layers within layers, with a complexity that only gradually unfolds. There are themes both human and trans-human, leading to revelation upon revelation.

The exploration here is not of mere space and time, but of essences and existence. To those who make the effort to join the journey, the rewards will be worthwhile.

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