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The heavy SF action starts in 2400. Space-going humankind is the most recent of many civilizations to be baffled by the impenetrable Kefahuchi System; that large outstanding area where an unshielded singularity makes physics itself unreliable. Along its accessible fringe, the "Beach", planetary systems are littered with crazy, deserted gadgets used to penetrate the System since previously life began in the world. A whole dead-end culture is based on beachcombing this debris of commercial archaeology ...
25th-century characters consist of a lady who's compromised nearly everything to merge with the AI "mathematics" of a fracture military spacecraft; a previous daredevil who once surfed black holes however has actually retreated into a virtual reality tank; the girl owner of the Circus of Pathet Lao, with an alien freakshow and a concealed program; and a range of x-rated, stinky, gene-sculpted lowlife, some comic, some menacing. Lots of are not what they seem.
In 1999 London, physicists Kearney and Tate-- remembered in 2400 as the daddies of interstellar flight-- are getting no place. Kearney's personal problems occupy familiar Harrison territory: city fear, a seedily unreliable guru, bad sex, guilty rituals to propitiate a metaphysical-seeming danger called the Shrander-- a pursuing image out of nightmare. In the lab, both Kearney and Tate fear the increasing quantum strangeness of their results.
The cosmological wonders and hazards of the Beach form a background to area pursuits and violent skirmishes whose duration is measured in nanoseconds, reported in tensely lyrical prose. Eventually everything comes together as it needs to-- even that overbearing 1999 story strand-- with discoveries, change, transcendence, and supreme hope. Harrison demands your full interest and rewards it richly.--David Langford
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