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This remarkable novel of alien invasion shows off Bears talents to their full effect: science-fictional extrapolation that is stunningly believable; characters who are real and affecting in their heroism and sacrifice. And Bears brilliance as a writer has never been better than in the final, climactic scenes.Edition/Copyright: 87
1 September 28-29 Camped beside the mountain that should not have been there, wrapped in cold desert darkness, Edward Shaw could not sleep. He heard steady breathing from the still forms of his two companions, and marveled at their ease. He had written in his notebook: * * * The mound is approximately five hundred meters long and half as wide, perhaps a hundred meters high, (apparently) the basaltic cinder cone of a dead volcano, covered with boulder- and cobble-sized chunks of dark black scoria and surrounded by fine white quartz sand. It is not on our maps nor in the 1991 Geosat directory. The flanks of the cone are steeper than the angle of repose, as much as fifty and sixty degrees. The weathering is haphazard at bestsome parts open to the sun and rain are jet black, shiny, and other areas are only mildly rusty. There are no insects on the moundspecifically, lift any rock and you willnotfind a scorpion or millipede. There are no beer cans. * * * Edward, Brad Minelli, and Victor Reslaw had journeyed from Austin, Texas, to combine a little geology with a lot of camping and hiking across the early autumn desert. Edward was the eldest, thirty-three; he was also the shortest and in a close race with Reslaw to lose his hair the fastest. He stood five feet nine inches in his hiking boots, and his slender frame and boyish, inquisitive features made him seem a lot younger, despite the thinning hair. To see objects closer than two feet from his round nose, he wore gold wire-framed round-lensed glasses, a style he had adopted as an adolescent in the late seventies. Edward lay on his back with his hands clasped behind his head and stared up at the clear steady immensity of the sky. Three days before, dark and gravid clouds had conspired in the flaming sunset to drop a true gully-washer into Death Valley. Their camp had been on high ground, but they had seen basketball-sized boulders slide and roll down freshly gouged channels. The desert seemed once again innocent of water and change. All around the camp hung a silence more precious than any amount of gold. Not even the wind spoke. He felt very large in the solitude, as if he might spread his fingers over half the land from horizon to horizon, and gather a mica coat of stars on his fingers. Conversely, in his largeness, he was also a little frightened. This inflated magnitude of self could easily be pricked and shrink to nothing, an illusion of comfort and warmth and high intellectual fever. Not once in his six-year career as a professor of geology had he found a major error in the U.S. Geological Survey Death Valley charts. The Mojave Desert and Death Valley were the Mecca and Al Medina of western U.S. geologists; they had tramped over the regions for well over a century, drawn by the nakedness and shameless variety of the Earth. From its depths miners had hauled borax and talc and gypsum and other useful, unglamorous minerals. In some places, niter-lined caves wedged several hundred feet into the Earth. A spelunker need descend only twenty or thirty feet to feel the heat; creation still lay close under Death Valley. There were hundreds of dead volcanoes, black or sullen red on the tan and gray and pink desert, between the resort at Furnace Creek and the small town of Shoshone, yet each one had been charted and was likely featured in some graduate research paper or another. This mountain was an anomaly. That was impossible. Reslaw and Minelli had shrugged it off as an interesting if unique error on the maps; a misplacement, like the discovery of some new island in an archipelago, known to the natives but lost in a shuffle of navigators' charts; a kind of Pitcairn of volcanic mounds. But the cinder cone was too close to routes traveled at least once or twice a year. Edward knew that it had not been misplaced. He could not deceiv
It is the best end of the world we will see for a long time.'' --John Clute,New Scientist ''Bear's best novel and is certainly one of the best long works of science fiction I have read this year.'' --San Diego Union ''Bear takes a profound and unusual approach to hard SF.'' --Los Angeles Times
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