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In the Ocean of Night (1977)

de Gregory Benford

Outros autores: Veja a seção outros autores.

Séries: Galactic Center (1)

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1,2831214,050 (3.43)23
A classic novel of man's future and fate, written by the eminent American physicist and award-winning author of "Timescape."

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» Veja também 23 menções

Inglês (10)  Espanhol (1)  Italiano (1)  Todos os idiomas (12)
Mostrando 1-5 de 12 (seguinte | mostrar todas)

It's not poorly written and has lots of interesting bits and pieces, but the book of the whole has no focus.

Over and over it sets up a typical hard sf setting and problem, then resolves it with very soft sci-fi hand waving. Neither fish or fowl, it's just a lumpy dogs breakfast.

The climax is an honest to god (pun intended) deus ex machina that left me wondering if I should be smoking the stuff the main characters seem to enjoy so much.

It's book one of a series, at least I can give up on the lot without spending any more time. ( )
  furicle | Aug 5, 2023 |
A finales del siglo XX una misión de la NASA debe destruir un planeta menor cuya órbita amenaza con colisionar con la Tierra. Pero el astrónomo Nigel Walmsley encuentra algo en esa superficie desolada que le hace desobedecer las ordenes recibidas. Este es el punto de partida de esta ambiciosa novela que es el inicio de una historia futura de ámbito galáctico centrada en el enfrentamiento entre las civilizaciones cibernéticas y las civilizaciones orgánicas, entre los ordenadores y las mentes asociadas con glándulas.
  Natt90 | Jul 18, 2022 |
Book 1, starting a series called Galaxy Center. Haven't yet read any of the other books in this series I'm not sure where it is going. There is, to me, an element of mysticism amidst the science that is it's-self a little ahead of the future the author predicted for the early 21st century. No, I am not finding fault with that. At the time, 1972, colonizing the moon looked like a good bet. OK, I am avoiding admitting that the ending left me baffled. Was there a point to all this? Maybe I need to read the series to get it. But first I will go online for more information. I don't mean to discourage others, just my frustration with a book that leaves me wondering, how did a book going so well leave me so fr behind? ( )
  thosgpetri | Apr 24, 2022 |
review of
Gregory Benford's In the Ocean of Night
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 13-17, 2019

"I did not set out to write a series of interconnected novels over a span of twenty-five years. I'm sure that if I'd known it would grow to a million words, I'd not have started." - p 1

The thought that this is only the 1st novel in a series of 6 ones is truly mind-boggling. This bk, alone, is deeply detailed & very thoughtful in many, many ways. If the other 5 live up to this beginning & even manage to expand on it I'll credit Benford w/ having written a 'masterpiece', a term I don't often use. One of the 1st things Benford does is make me feel grateful that there're novas & black holes — I mean, how have I ever been able to stand living in such a crowded Galaxy?! It's practically a ghetto.

"In the core, just a few light-years from the exact center of our galaxy, a million stars crowd into a single cubic light-year. On average, the nearer stars are only a hundredth of a light-year away, ten thousand times the distance from the Earth to the sun. Imagine having several stars so close they outshone the moon.

"As one might expect, this is bad news for solar systems around such stars. Close collisions between all these stars occur every few hundred thousand years, scrambling up planetary orbits, raining down comets on them as well.

"The galactic center is the conspicuous Time Square of the galaxy—and far more deadly than comfortable suburbs like ours, the Orion Arm of the spiral. Joel Davis's Journey to the Center of Our Galaxy details how horrific the central volume is, pointing out that the survival time for an unshielded human within even a hundred light years of the core is probably a few hours." - p 4

That just goes to show how unvisionary arms dealers are about exploiting a potential market. Why stop at making paranoid normals afraid of the other? Body armor? Pooh. AK47s? Bah. Full blown shielding in case the Orion Arm starts to fold in? That's where the money is. For that matter, why even bother to continue to exist as a human?

"For years I had enjoyed long conversations with a friend, noted artifical intelligence theorist Marvin Minsky, about the possible lines of evolution of purely machine intelligence. Marvin views our concern with mortality and individualism as a feature of biological creatures, unnecessary among intelligences that never had to pass through the Darwinnowing filter." - p 9

I hope I get a chance to use "Darwinnowing" again in this review.

""How is that famine going?"

"He sighed. "Worse than expected. I guess as soon as word filtered down that Icarus might hit, all those dirt farmers left their crops and started preparing for the afterlife. That just aggravated the famine. The UN thinks there'll be several million dead inside six months, even with our airlifts, and our sociometricians agree."" - pp 23-24

I cd try to use Darwinnowing here but given the history of famines such as the Irish potato famine where there was really just the English stealing the potatoes farmed in Ireland so that the Irish didn't have enuf to eat maybe Darwinnowing isn't the right word. Speaking of words, it's sometimes commented on that neologisms in SF often become words describing the things that start out as fiction & then become fact. Take the word TASER: that's an acronymn for Thomas A Swift's Electric Rifle taken from a novel of the same name. Then there's "waldo", a neologism from SF writer Robert A. Heinlein from a 1942 short story of the same name. These words then enter into the vocabulary of other SF bks:

"He glided toward the vent wall and extended a waldoe claw. Its teeth bit neatly with a dull snap" - p 28

Benford's rebellious central character, an astronaut named Nigel, shows his character in a sarcastic exchange re horoscopes.

"She slipped the shower cap from around her knotted hair and said, "Read me my horoscope, will you? It's on the end table, there."

"Nigel grimaced. "I prefer entrails, myself. Shall I nip out for a small goat, put him to the knife and give you a prognosis for the day?"" - p 52

I can relate. A horoscope I cobbled together as a commentary on horoscopes in general is here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/W1980sHoroscope.html . In fact, I can relate to quite alot in here.

"He played the game of his youth, when everyone drove but fuel was excuciatingly short. He watched the lights flicker yellow red green and timed his approach, seeking the path of minimum energy. It was best to glide the last third of a block, letting road friction and the gentle brushing wind slow them until the red popped to green. If his timing was off he would down-shift to third, then second, storing the kinetic life that he envisioned as a precious fluid moving within the car" - p 75

When I was a teenager, some of us wd go for drives in my friend Humdrum's car. Instead of racing around, wch was probably more typical behavior, we'd see how far we cd get just letting the car drift & using the gas as little as possible. A decade or so later I thought of trying to cross the US in a car that was mostly drifiting as a sort of publicity stunt / performance. That never happened but I still think it's a good idea. How else cd a slower type of being spot us?

""The aft camera nailed it," Nigel said.

""What? You found the trouble?" Lubkin got up with surprising agility and walked around his desk.

""No malfunction. Those echoes were real, the engineers pegged it right. We've got a Snark."" - p 83

Yes, an AI spaceship had been sighted — but even AI spaceships make mistakes.

"The ship thought and decided. The hypothesis of natural origin seemed far more likely. It would cost fuel and time to check further, and the region near the gas giant was dangerous. Far wiser, then, to continue acclerating." - p 86

Hot-rodder? Or drifter? Nigel keeps finding himself in the midst of some pretty far-reaching consequential situations.

"Some NASA execs urged him to keep it up, kick over a few more clay-" [Big] "footed troglodytes. But they did it in secluded corners at cocktail parties, muttering into their branch-water-and-bourbons about his maneuvering skill." - p 89

The "branch-water-and-bourbons" made me wonder whether Benford might be Scottish but he's American. I wondered because the only time I've heard of branch-water being used as a mixer was when I lived briefly in Scotland. There it wd've been branch-water-and-scotch. I didn't know there was an American tradition too.

There are many levels to this novel. Some background elements are just there, there's very little to make them more than just background elements. Nonetheless, they still 'flesh-out-the-story'.

"It was late when they left the restaurant. Some of the more stylish stores were still open. Two police in riot jackets checked their faxcodes and then passed down the street. The two women stopped most of the people they met, taking them into the orange pools beneath the well-spaced street lamps and demanding identification. One woman stood at a safe distance with stun-club drawn while the other dialed through to Central, checking the ferrite verimatrix in the faxcodes. Nigel was not looking when, a short distance away, a woman suddenly bolted away from the police and dashed into a department store. The man with her tried to run, too, but a policewoman forced him to the ground. The other policewoman drew a pistol and ran into a store. The man yelled something" - p 93

Nigel isn't always an active astronaut & has to go through periodic further training in order to maintain his potentially active status.

"They flew in on commercial transport; the days of private planes for astronauts had vanished long before. The other two men were of the usual mold: robust, good-humored, competetive. Nigel weathered the physical tests, including the long-standing worst—cold water, poured in an ear, causing the eyeballs to whirl as the confused brain struggles with input from two semicircular canals, one warm and the other cold; the world tilted madly. Then a day in a practice module, immersed in a universe of switches, manifolds, pipes, tanks, sensors, valves, connectors, hardware without end." - p 117

I'm interested in off-planet travel &, hence, in astronauts so my interest perked up when I read a reference to a former NASA astronaut.

"the thought would crop up that this must have happened to the early astronauts. He'd gone and read the books from that era; they didn't teach him much. He retained a vision of Buzz Aldrin withdrawing into depressive-alcoholic binges, divorcing his wife, living alone, securing the doors and windows of his apartment, unplugging the telephone, and drinking, for days at a time, simply drinking and thinking and drinking." - pp 124-125

When I read Benford's section about "cold water, poured in an ear, causing the eyeballs to whirl" I wondered if Benford had read bks about astronaut training or if he had some astronaut training connections & if that's where he got this detail from.

Nigel thinks. & he thinks about something that I've thought about before too.

"He pondered the opaque angle. Oddities of the language: angle, with two letters interchanged, spelled angel. Easy, so easy. One transposition rendered the comfortably Euclidean into—pop—the orthodoxly religious. Two letters alone could leap that vast abiding chasm. Absurdly easy." - p 137

My friend & collaborator Michael Pestel & I made an installation/performance piece called "Harps & Angles" after piano harps & camera angles. 'Inevitably', when a performance on it was introduced by someone they sd: "Harps & Angels". Oh, well.

Benford imagines what, to me, is a plausible dystopic 'job'.

""During peak hours when the computers don't have enough solid-state electronics banks left to do the job, they're planning to use human neural inventories."" - p 146

""Is that what you say? Economics To hook poor people into machines, rent out their frontal lobes?"

""Granted, it's unappealing. A zombie life, I suppose."

""It's beneath human dignity."

""How dignified is it to starve to death?"

"Shirley leaned forward and said fiercely, "Do you really believe such a simple-minded—? You do, don't you?["]" - p 147

In other words, yeah, starvation isn't the only alternative to renting out your frontal lobes. I wonder if Benford was deliberately making Shirley more sympathetic a character than Nigel in this.

Benford's view of England in 2034 implies a not-particularly happy future.

"He and Alexandria lifted three days later. They had booked well in advance to get a flight over the poles; they reentered the atmosphere as a flaring pink line scratched across the sky of the north Atlantic.

"Matters were a bit better in England than during their last visit several years before. There were only a few shambling beggars at the baggage checkout, and they seemed to have valid licences. Most of the terminal was lighted, though not heated. Their helicopter to the southlands lifted free with a clatter into the chilling winds. Coal smoke blotted out the London sprawl.

"They reached their destination easily: a well-preserved English inn about three hundred and fifty years old, well run and securely guarded. They spent Christmas there, snug in the battering winds. The next day they hired a guard and a limousine and visited Stonehenge." - p 148

The dystopic touches are somewhat subtle, the scene isn't overwhelming mayhem. Still, the beggars have to have licences, there's no heat in the terminal, there's coal smoke, the inn is securely guarded (implying a need for such), & they hire a guard to go with them to Stonehenge.

In the Ocean of Night was originally published in 1977. Fermat's Enigma was still unsolved then.

""But—what struck me . . ." Words, he could not find the words, ". . . was the nimble aspect it has. We spoke of elementary mathematics, physics, number theory. It gave me what I believe to be a proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. Its mind leaps from one subject to another and is perfectly at home. When it spoke of mathematics it was cool and efficient, never wasting a word. Then it asked for poetry."" - pp 202-203

Fermat's Enigma was solved in 1995 by Andrew Wiles after 358 years of other unsuccessful attempts to do so. Of course, in 2019, everyone knows that reading one book, Paradigm Shift Knuckle Sandwich & other examples of P.N.T. (Perverse Number Theory) is all that one has to do (NOT!). ( https://www.amazon.com/dp/1944786449?ref=vsecp_int_d_nn_u )

As I've already noted, "Some background elements are just there" but "they still 'flesh-out-the-story'." Here's another example, one about co-optation, that I find interesting.

"Nigel wondered what the original Airplane would've thought of using their music to promote tourism. The Chamber of Commerce had done the same job on them that New Orleans did on Jelly Roll Morton, decades before." - p 254

Weeeelllllllll, given that the Jefferson Airplane, one of my favorite psychedlic bands & one that I even witnessed live way back when, did radio ads for Levis they weren't exactly above commercialism were they?

"Perhaps people were trying to forget the crisis years. They harked back to the '70s and '80s of the last century and skipped over the stinging memories of the '00s and '10s." - p 258

Having been alive thru all those decades now, I'm not sure whether there was ever a time without "crisis years". The '70s were declared the time of the "Me Generation" or some such shit by propagandists trying to move people away from the revolutions of the '60s. The '80s were when I remember heroin really moving in hardcore to devastate BalTimOre.

In the Ocean of Night is a novel of 'First Contact', of brushing up against extraterrestrial technology. Nigel is central to this contact. On the moon, humans are inside an apparently crashed spaceship that's at least half a million yrs old.

""Where does the power come from?" Sanges said.

""We don't know. The generators must be in one of the other modules but the engineers don't want to go too deeply in there until we understand more. The power is AC, about 370 hertz—though that varies, for some reason. We took this panel off and tried to trace the circuitry but it's extremely complicated. In another passageway the engineers found a huge vault of micro-sized electronic parts, apparently part of a memory bank. Most of the vault is thin films of magnetic materials on a substrate. The whole vault is at a very low temperature, far colder than the surrounding ship."

""Superconducting memory elements?"

""We think so.["]" - p 302

Benford even manages to surprise me.

"And once he'd adopted an hypothesis, Graves hired guides and went in search of the elusive creature he suspected was a connection to the Wasco event . . .

"The Salish Indians called it Sasquatch. The Hudson's Bay Company report of 1864 gave evidence of hundreds of such sightings. The loggers and trappers who moved into the Pacific Northwest knew it mainly by its tracks and thus it gained a new name: Bigfoot." - p 320

I wasn't expecting Yetis to enter the plot. Then again, there might've already been some sightings in this review in the form of an unexplained word insertion.

One of my favorite SF novels is called Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel R. Delaney. So, what do I find in In the Ocean of Night?

"Stars like grains of sand, infinite and immortal." - p 333

I expected to find one or the other of those variations as a part of a poem to be ferretted out by an online search. No such luck. The closest I got was this:

"“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”
― William Blake, Auguries of Innocence"

Close, but no cigar. 'That's kinda like English vs American, ain't it?' you ask.

""A political road show, yes. Makes one wonder why our schedule has been so frequently interrupted."

"Nikka looked puzzled. "Our shed-yool?"

""Yes, you say sked-jule, don't you? What I mean is that we seem to get interrupted on our shift a great deal, more than the other teams. We lost several hours today from that electric high tension, for example—"

""High tension?"

""In American that's, uh, high voltage."

""You've never lost your Englishisms."" - p 347

You say tomato, I say flabberghastly, Let's call the whole thing Offal.

"The Hindu temple monkeys are ordinarily peaceful in the jungle. But once they become pets, take to living in the temples, they multiply freely and form large troops. One troop, stumbling on another, suddenly flies into a fierce rage and attacks. They are animals with time on their hands; deprived of the need to hunt, they have invented warfare. As man did." - p 354

I wdn't dare get on bad terms w/ a troop of temple monkeys. I went to the Batu Caves near Kuala Lumpur & saw a monkey with a scrotum as large as my head. It must've been hard for him to walk. I wdn't've wanted to be around if he had a testosterone rush. Maybe he had elephantiasis. "Batu Caves": https://youtu.be/NoXhoYL6kH0 .

Then there's the moon. Never fuck w/ monkeys on the moon.

"The footprints Nikka made would, if left, survive for half a million years, until the fine spray of particles from the solar wind blurred them." - p 384

Now, back in November of 2018, I read Clifford Simac's The Trouble with Tycho. I remember reading something similar to that there. I wdn't've thought about it if it weren't for SF.

Then we get to the cliff-hanger.

"It hit him in the face and Nigel Walmsley disintegrated." - p 390

Is our hero dead? Only his hairdresser knows for sure.

""I think he has found that the looking is better than the finding," he said." - p 407

That's more or less what I say about the hermetic process, a process thru wch a door of perception leads to another door of perception. Then again, it depends on what you're looking for; if you're looking for your keys when you're about to go out you might prefer to find your keys; if you're looking for your glasses that you can't read without & you want to read you might prefer to find your glasses; if you're looking for the way to pull your penis out when you've had too much to drink you might prefer to find your penis before you piss all over your clothes. That sort of thing.

At the end of the novel there's a "Timeline of Galactic Series" that puts this novel in perspective for the entire sextet (sextuplets). This timeline covers 2019 C.E. to 37,378 C.E. & stretches across 6 pages. This novel is only reflected in the 1st 2 entries:

"2019 C.E. Nigel Walmsley encounters the Snark, a mechanical scout.

"2024 Ancient alien starship found wrecked in Marginis crater, on Earth's moon." - p 423

the titles of the other 5 bks in the series are:

Across the Sea of Suns
Great Sky River
Tides of Light
Furious Gulf
Sailing Bright Eternity

If I don't read all of these before I die I won't be able to go to a heaven I don't believe in. ( )
  tENTATIVELY | Apr 3, 2022 |
Benford, Gregory. In the Ocean of Night. 1977. Galactic Center No. 1. Aspect, 2004.
In the Ocean of Night is the novel that put Gregory Benford on everyone’s science fiction pay attention list. Like many novels of the period, it started out as a few short stories that were cobbled together and expanded into a substantial, if not always structurally obvious, novel. Nigel, a NASA astronaut imported from England, is on a mission to rendezvous with a dangerous incoming asteroid and blow it to relatively harmless smithereens. But then he discovers there is an alien spacecraft inside with a dead crewmember onboard. He starts ignoring Houston and it is game on. Complications ensue when the alien craft steals a page from Arthur Clarke and emits a signal aimed out of the system. Longtime readers of Benford will not be surprised at where things go next. The novel is surely a creature of its time, but it is a classic of hard sci-fi space opera. 4 stars. ( )
  Tom-e | Sep 15, 2020 |
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» Adicionar outros autores (7 possíveis)

Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Gregory Benfordautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Dismukes, JohnArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Jones, PeterArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Kresek, LarryArtista da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
昭, 山高Tradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado


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A classic novel of man's future and fate, written by the eminent American physicist and award-winning author of "Timescape."

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