The underlying premise of the
story is space exploration / colonization by sending swarms of nano-assemblers
throughout space at near light speed. I’d probably have been very
interested in a book which was about that topic. However,
Assemblers Of Infinity deals with humans (who have not yet developed such
technology) discovering a structure built on the Moon by alien nanos, and how
humans respond to what it might mean. The book is mostly a drama about a
number of people who are involved in the human responses.
If you stop and ask yourself
what has transpired in how many pages, you may conclude the story moves very
slowly. In the first third of the book, essentially what takes place is a
(presumably alien) structure built by nano machines appears on the Moon some
distance away from human bases and a nanotech researcher is brought up from
Earth to try to learn more about the "nano critters". That's
150 pages. Now, there's a lot of character, setting and low-level plot
material going on during those 150 pages. It doesn't drag the way one
might expect from some of the above. On the other hand, if you're the
kind of reader who finishes a novel and says, "This could have been told
in a novella" - you may not find the book entirely satisfying.
After that first third of the
book, we discover that the nano machines have become less destructive,
presumably to avoid killing life forms. It also seems the nanos that
landed on the Moon were part of a swarm of nanos that also landed on Earth (but
became inactive in response to life). Meanwhile, Earth authorities start
making plans for fighting the nanos to defend Earth from a possible
threat. You are now halfway through the book.
By 2/3 through the book, the
nanos on the Moon have gotten into the bodies of people at the Moon bases, but
don't seem to be doing any harm. The nano researcher on the Moon finds a
way to get the nanos to disassemble each other, and that seems to have resulted
in the people no longer having nanos in their bodies. Meanwhile, a nano
researcher in Antarctica on Earth has found some of the alien nanos down
there. These are inactive, presumably in response to life forms on
Earth. He creates a hybrid of the nanos he was previously testing and the
alien nanos. He finds that when these hybrid nanos are put in the body of
a test rat (or a mortally injured human he rescues) the hybrids are active in
the body fixing health issues. So, we've been getting more than just
character material and such, but this isn't an edge-of-your-seat
Finally, we get some more
tension and suspense as a few things start happening. On the Moon, people
start preparing to destroy the alien structure built by the nanos. On
Earth, in the nano lab, the rat with nanos in it turns into a blob of
protoplasm and nanos. Back on the Moon, the alien nanos’ activity at the
structure stops - suggesting the structure is complete.
The book ends with some
interesting questions, but not many answers. The concept could lead to an
idea-rich sequel. However, I'm not sure Anderson is the one to make it
idea-rich or to write it with more substance per page.
If you’re more inclined than
I am towards character dramas with an SF premise and don’t mind it being spread
over a lot of pages, this may appeal to you.
Nanotech is an interesting
upcoming field. However, the science in the book is only skin deep.
(Even if Anderson knows a lot about it, you won’t learn much from this
book.) When the researcher gets the alien nanos to disassemble each
other, one character asks, "What happened to the last nano in your
body?" He's told that it must have starved to death, as if they were
life forms. Later, we're told the last nano apparently left that person's
body and got rid of the nanos in everybody else's bodies. It seems a bit
Meanwhile, we're told the
researcher on Earth is able to make hybrids of simple Earth nanos and
sophisticated alien nanos because nanos are designed to look for improvements
in their own design and improve themselves when they see a better way to do
things. It seems unlikely the unsophisticated Earth test nanos had such a
superior feature the alien nanos would want (or could make sense of the
peculiar Earth design developed entirely separately from the alien’s tech).
The book also triggered my
pet peeve about psychic powers, as one of the characters seems to have
prophetic dreams playing a role in the plot.