Nebula Award nominee 2002.
In this stunningly original tale, acclaimed author Wil McCarthy imagines a wondrous future in which the secrets of matter have been unlocked and death itself is but a memory. But it is also a future imperiled by a bitter rivalry between two brilliant scientists – one perhaps the greatest genius in the history of humankind; the other, its greatest monster.
In a world of awesome technology, the deadly substance called collapsium has given humans all the powers and caprices – including immortality – of the gods they once worshiped. Composed of miniature black holes, collapsium allows the instantaneous transmission of information and matter – as well as humans – throughout the solar system. But while its reclusive inventor, Bruno de Towaji, next dreams of probing the farthest reaches of spacetime, Marlon Sykes, his ambitious rival in science – and in love – has built an awesome telecommunications network by constructing a ring of collapsium around the sun. It appears Sykes may be the victor – until a ruthless saboteur attacks the ring and sends it falling toward the sun. Now the two scientists must put aside personal animosity to prevent the destruction of the solar system – and every living thing within it.
Wil McCarthy (born 1966) is a science fiction novelist, Chief Technology Officer for Galileo Shipyards (an aerospace research corporation), and the science columnist for Syfy. He currently resides in Colorado.
Wil McCarthy invented the Wellstone, or Programmable matter concept: Programmable Matter smart material is any bulk substance whose physical properties can be adjusted in real time through the application of light, voltage, electric or magnetic fields, etc. Primitive forms may allow only limited adjustment of one or two traits (e.g., the "photodarkening" or "photochromic" materials found in light-sensitive sunglasses), but there are theoretical forms which, using known principles of electronics, should be capable of emulating a broad range of naturally occurring materials, or of exhibiting unnatural properties which cannot be produced by other means.