Gregory Benford’s Eater is, according to the cover at any rate, an “explosive new science fiction thriller” set in the fun-packed world of astrophysics. I have some acquaintance with this world, given that the Book God’s predecessor was a Natural Philosopher with an interest in such things. That’s probably where my interest in factual science comes from – I refuse to give him all the credit for my interest in science fiction – I lay that at the door of my English teacher in junior secondary school who had us reading Arthur C Clarke’s A Fall of Moondust.
Anyhow, we are in Hawaii with the astronomers and astrophysicists and there is an anomaly in the heavens, moving the way such things should not. Turns out to be a sentient black hole heading Earthwards – I’m not giving anything away here, a casual glance at the blurb on the back of the edition I have gives away this key plot point. But what does it want and what is the world going to do about it?
This was a bit of a guilty pleasure – I quite enjoyed it while feeling all the way through that I shouldn’t. I think this is because it read very much like it was aiming for the screen, probably as a Sci-Fi Channel mini-series with all the things you would expect. Is there a crumpled deskbound hero scientist who would love to do real work again? Is there a wonderfully intelligent woman suffering from a terminal disease but working through her pain? Is there a rival of long-standing who turns out to be an ally as they all work towards a common goal? Is there tragedy, betrayal and a noble sacrifice? You bet.
I don’t mean to make fun because I did actually enjoy reading this, it was quite pacy and there was a lot of hard science which is one of the things I really enjoy. But in the back of my mind I was casting the movie, and that’s always a bit distracting.