My favorite novel of all time is:


by David Brin
On back cover:

"A microscopic black hole has accidentally fallen into the Earth's core, threatening to destroy the entire planet within two years. Some scientists are frantically searching for ways to prevent the disaster. But others argue that the only way to save the Earth is to let its human inhabitants become extinct to let the evolutionary clock rewind and start all over again."

Inside cover:

Other generations perceived a plethora of swords hanging over their heads. But generally what they feared were shadows, for neither they nor their gods could actually end the world. Fate might reap an individual, or a family, or even a whole nation, but not the entire world. Not then.

We, in the mid-twenty-first century, are the first to look up at a sword we ourselves have forged, and know , with absolute certainty, it is real . . .

Intro to first chapter:

First came a supernova, dazzling the universe in brief, spendthrift glory before ebbing into twisty, multispectral coulds of new-forged atoms. Swirling eddies spiraled until one of them ignited -- a newborn star.

The virgin sun wore whirling skirts of dust and electricity. Gas and rocks and bits of this and that fell into those pleats, gathering in dim lumps . . .
planets . . .

One tiny worldlet circled at a middle distance. It had a modest set of properties:

mass -- barely enough to draw in a passing asteroid or two;
moons -- one, the remnant of a savage collision, but big enough to tug deep tides;
spin -- to set winds churning through a fuming atmosphere;
density -- a brew that mixed and separated, producing an unpromising surface slag;
temperature -- heat was the planet's only voice, a weak one, swamped by the blaring sun. Anyway, what can a planet tell the universe, in a reedy cry of infrared? "This exists," it repeated, over and over, "This is a condensed stone, radiating at about three hundred degrees, insignificant on the scale of stars.

"This speck, a mote, exists."
A simple statement to an indifferent cosmos -- the signature of a rocky world, tainted by salty, smoke-blown puddles.

But then something new stirred in those puddles. It was a triviality -- a mere discoloration here and there. But from that moment the voice changed. Subtly, shifting in timbre, still faint and indistinct, it nevertheless seemed now to say,
"I . . . am . . ."

Intro to second chapter:

A modest fire burns longer. So it is, also, with stars.
The brightest rush through lives of spendthrift extravagance to finally explode in terminal fits of self-expression, briefly outshining whole galaxies.
Meanwhile, humbler, quieter suns patiently tend their business, aging slowly, gracefully.
Ironically, it takes both types to make a proper potion. For without the grand immoderation of supernovas there would be no ingredients - no oxygen, carbon, silicon, or iron. And yet the steady yellow suns are also needed - to bake the concoction slowly, gently, or the recipe will spoil.

Take a solar mix of elements. Condense small lumps and accrete them to a midsized globe. Set it just the right distance from the flame and rotate gently. The crust should bubble and then simmer for the first few million years.
Rinse out excess hydrogen under a wash of sunlight.
Pound with comets for one eon, or until a film of liquid forms.
Keep rotating under an even heat for several billion years.
Then wait . . .

Okay, okay, I'll stop, but I love this book!

More on David Brin,

and an (unofficial) David Brin Biography page.

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Bill Mellman,
Last update:
March 13, 1996