By 2021, Earth's nations are at (relative) peace, and even the erstwhile poorer nations are beginning to enjoy stable political and economic regimes. The invention of a super-strong material named Bulerite is partially responsible for this, which enables Earth to, at last, initiate a burgeoning space industry. However, events unfold which result in the first "Macrolife" colony leaving the solar system for the nearer stars.
Explanation of the novel's titleEdit
Scientist Dandridge M. Cole originated the term "Macro Life" in his 1961 book The Ultimate Human Society, though the idea of using asteroids as mobile "societal containers" is a common theme in science, and science fiction.
Cole defined Macro Life as "life squared per cell", ie "Macro Life is to man what man is to the cell". Zebrowski, in the novel, regards Macrolife as an open-ended, expansive union of organic, cybernetic and machine intelligences (human and alien) with spacefaring as its means of dissemination.
The novel is split into three main sections.
(I) Sunspace: 2021 ... The Bulero family/corporation, inventors and marketers of Bulerite which is used to build the huge cities which house the Earth's (and colonies) teeming millions, are at the pinnacle of their influence and wealth. Unfortunately, it is discovered - too late - that the substance is inherently flawed, in that after a time it destabilizes and self-destructs with spectacular results. Gradually, all the Bulerite on Earth, and that on and in the space colonies throughout the solar system becomes unstable, causing destruction and megadeath.
The Bulero family manages to escape to Asterome, an orbiting colony situated inside a hollowed-out asteroid at the Moon's L5 point. Eventually, a means of providing Asterome with propulsion is discovered - necessary, as it becomes clear that there is so much Bulerite on Earth it is creating an expanding field of energy that could encompass the entire inner system. Asterome finally manages to leave the solar system, heading for Alpha Centauri, the nearest star.
(II) Macrolife: 3000 ... A thousand years later, Asterome has grown by adding concentric layers of shells around itself, and is now host to millions of humans and Humanity II cybernetic organisms.
The invention of engines that can surpass the speed of light has made it possible for the colony to explore far and wide; the second part finds them studying a planet orbiting the star Praesepe over 500 light years away. John Bulero, a young clone of one of the original Bulero's, decides to see what life is like on a planet, and lives for a while amongst the natives, descendants of a human colony that has reverted back to savagery. His experiences, while tragic, enable him to grow as an individual.
Eventually, Asterome travels back to the solar system to see how events there have unfolded. Their arrival coincides with the first time humans meet an intelligent alien species which is itself experimenting with Macrolife, and, together, the species begin a process of intermingling and further expansion into the universe.
(III) The Dream of Time ... A hundred billion years have passed, and Macrolife is now the dominant culture throughout the universe, which is, at this stage, beginning to contract into its final death throes. Most life is in the form of a Hyperpersonal Aggregate; an amalgam of individuals of all kinds. The aggregate re-individualizes John Bulero again, to help them solve the problem of how Macrolife can survive beyond the death of the Universe. Eventually, they discover many Macrolife survivors from many previous cycles of the universe, who help them to conquer time itself.
Characters in "Macrolife"Edit
- Richard Bulero : Central character.
- Jack Bulero : Richard's father, head of Bulero Enterprises.
- Janet Bulero : Richard's mother.
- Samuel Bulero : Richard's uncle
- Orton Blackfriar : lawyer ; Governor of New Mexico.
- Margot Toren : Richard's girlfriend, later wife.
- John Bulero : Clone of Samuel Bulero.
- Rob Wheeler : John Bulero's exemplar.
- Anulka : John Bulero's wife on the planet Lea.
- Tomas Blakfar : Lean descendant of the Blackfriar family.
Throughout the novel, the author makes the point that planet-based civilizations are doomed to failure, as resources are too limited, populations tend to outgrow the resources, and there is no way for those who wish to rebel against the society they are part of to express themselves safely. Only spacefaring cultures can escape this fate, Zebrowski seems to be saying.
Several other books have been written to take place in the same fictional world:
- Transfigured Night and Wayside World, two novelettes published in 1978, are "set in the planned Macrolife mosaic of short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels". Wayside World (part of a shared-universe project generated by Poul Anderson) was also the name of a chapter in the novel.
- In the Distance, and Ahead in Time a Macrolife novelette, was published in Amazing Stories in 1993. It was also the title of his 10-story short-story collection of 2002 (ISBN 0-7862-4687-1).
- In 1999, Zebrowski wrote Cave of Stars, set in the same universe as Macrolife (though not a sequel).
- Author's homepage
- Infinity Plus interview with author
- Scans from Dandridge Cole's Beyond Tomorrow
- Essay by author and Gregory Benford on SFsite
- 1979, USA, Harper & Row (ISBN 0-06-014792-X), Pub date ? ? 1979, hardback (First edition)
- 1980, UK, Orbit / Futura Pubns (ISBN 0-7088-8060-6), Pub date ? May 1980, paperback
- 1981, USA, Avon (ISBN 0-380-55483-6), Pub date ? ? 1981, paperback
- 1990, USA, Easton Press (ISBN ?), Pub date ? ? 1990, hardback
- 2006, USA, Pyr (ISBN 1-59102-340-8), Pub date 2 January 2006, hardback
- 2006, USA, Pyr (ISBN 1-59102-341-6), Pub date 2 January 2006, paperback