This futuristic science fiction novel begins in the year 2019. Astronaut Nigel Walmsley is sent on a mission to intercept Icarus, a once-harmless meandering asteroid that has mysteriously converted into a comet headed on a direct collision course with Earth. When ordered to plant a device to destroy Icarus, Nigel lands on the comet and makes the startling discovery that it is in fact an ancient defunct space probe. Refusing to destroy this first evidence of alien presence in the universe, Nigel tries to explore the probe, unknowingly triggering something in the wreck which sends a mysterious signal into space.
Fast-forward to the year 2034. Nigel is now passing time in an obscure job thanks to his controversial decision, and his personal life has just taken a turn for worse with his wife diagnosed as terminally ill. Itís at this time that a spaceship searching for organic lifeforms comes into our solar system in response to the last signal Icarus sent. The knowledge of this ship and itís incredibly sophisticated and sentient computers sends Earth leadership into turmoil. Once again, Nigel is called upon to go into space and deal with this new threat. Torn emotionally and morally, will Nigel do whatís right, especially since what he learns could have tremendous repercussions for eons to come?
Gregory Benford brings an exceptional level of authenticity to this novel of science fiction, thanks to his own background as a physicist. His scientific knowledge manifests itself in various intriguing details and reveals the intense research done. The story is well-plotted, although some bits here and there are very meandering, obscure, and have deeper meanings which take time to understand. But overall, In the Ocean of Night, with its startling mix of the mundane and the extraordinary, of fact and fiction, compels the readers to sit up, take notice, look at the sky above with marvel as well as a little trepidation, and wonder if there is even the slightest chance that this story could possibly come true one day.