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Great Sky River

(Galactic Center #3)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  1,668 ratings  ·  50 reviews
After the events of Across the Sea of Suns, small groups of humans have settled on other star systems. However, there is a constant threat from the Mechs, a civilization of machines left over from other civilizations and evolved to see all biological civilization as unstable and dangerous.

Great Sky River tells the story of the Bishop family, who fight for their very existe
Mass Market Paperback, 340 pages
Published October 1988 by Bantam Spectra (first published November 1st 1987)
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3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,668 ratings  ·  50 reviews

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David Gullen
Nov 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Benford is one of the SF greats and Great Sky River one of his great books. As an act of imagination it's a triumph, as a piece of storytelling and writing it is by turns soaring, lyrical, and poetic. And sometimes it falls a bit flat on its face. That's OK because in the main Great Sky River works very well and the failings are because Benford seems to be pushing his considerable talents as a writer to the limit - and those sorts of failings you can easily forgive.

So sometimes he over-indulges
Stephen Case
Warfare between man and machine has become something of a trope in science fiction, from the future apocalypses of the original Terminator (which scared me to death as a kid) to the more recent, sexy and subtle conflicts of Ex Machina. Often these man-vs-machine dystopias play out against the ruins of our own civilization, with landmarks or blasted-yet-familiar vistas driving home the fact that our own creations have destroyed what we had previously built. Gregory Benford’s classic science ficti ...more
R. Michael Duttera
While entertaining the initial part of the book was a rather straight-forward tale of a fallen human civilizations losing struggle against an encroaching machine civilization on a single world near the galactic center. A group containing the leadership of the last humans seemingly gets tracked down and captured by the feared "Mantis" and it seems all is over but then the plot twists in an unexpected fashion and suddenly the scale and stakes of the story take on galactic proportions and the story ...more
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best book in GLACTIC CENTRE series.
Walt O'Hara
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
I just finished a re-read of GREAT SKY RIVER, the third book of Gregory Benford's GALACTIC CENTER novels. This is my favorite Benford series and my personal favorite of that series. I last read it when it was a new hardcover; now I am listening to it on an audiobook. The reader's performance is only so-so but I can't fault the story at all. It really holds up well, an action story that muses on human existence. And giant killer robots. And a Great Escape plot.. why the hell don't they ever make ...more
Mouldy Squid
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
Well, now I'm hooked. This is the third book in Benford's "Galactic Center" series, but the first one set this far in the future. I liked it. I will have to see what happens in the next book, too.

The author has created a rich world of the future where mankind is on the run from intelligent machines that dominate his world. Centuries of human advancement have seemingly been lost in the years of war. The story is about the struggle of a last few hundred on one planet.

Mr. Benford heightens the inte
Sep 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
The setting is a planet named Snowglade near the galactic core. Small groups of humans, the remnants of a once great spacefaring civilization are now forced to live a life on the run. They are hunted by an advanced civilization of mechanized beings who have taken over their planet. The humans steal what they can from the mechs and the mechs in turn seek to exterminate humans like the pests they have become. Things look bleak indeed until a being of magnetic force, finds Killeen and tells him to ...more
The third novel in Bedford's Galactic Center series takes place some 35,000 years in the future. It follows the life of a human, Killeen, who is one of the relatively small number of humans surviving on a distant world. Their civilization has been all but destroyed by the mechanical civilization and they fight to survive.

This is better than the first two, mostly because the main character is far less irritating. It focuses on what humans have had to become to survive and how alien the mechanical
Laura Ruetz
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First of all, this says it is book three in a series and I haven't read the first two, but that did not diminish my enjoyment of this book. So, for all readers who have not read the other two, don't let that keep you from reading this one.

I ran across this book and realized that I had not read this one before. While I grew up reading science fiction, hard science fiction was never one of my favorites, as I leaned more towards fantasy. That being said, this book is a fabulous read. It took me a c
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When you get to the end of this book, especially after the accelerated pace of the last quarter of it or so, you realize how much of the beginning of it was intended to be savored. This is an astounding piece of work — futuristic, apocalyptic, prescient bordering on clairvoyant, cautionary, sympathetic, and more. How this book remains little more than a cult classic — and how Gregory Benford remains largely unknown — is astounding. Among many other things, the man is a highly literate and very t ...more
Apr 28, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Well, after reading all the other reviews I see I am in a minority here but I didn't find this book that great. I love real sci-fi books and find it hard to come across good ones but this just wasn't it for me. I found the bastardized language used by the humans annoying and I find that I have no sympathy with the tribe like families on the run. I found no character or group worth rooting for or the bad guys worth hating so this was just a so so book for me.
Chris Gardner
I could not finish this book.
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars.

Ah man, these stupid books don't have numbers on them so I must have started reading this one out of order - uh nope. We really just skipped from humanity's first steps into space to a fallen tribe of augmented humans on some random planet existing on parasites on a robotic society. No Nigel Walmsley. There is still conflict between characters, and there is still a main character, Killeen, but Benford has wisely withheld his omnipotence from him. Just because Killeen argues for somethi
Amy Rutherford
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Odd start, great finish. I had a really hard time getting my bearings for the first third of the book--a lot different than the first two--but ended up getting sucked in and really looked forward to picking it up.
Mike Bruce
Not near as good as the first two books in the series (In the Ocean of Night & Across the Sea of Suns). Hope the rest of the books get better
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The third book in the saga. It's different from the first and second book and has some interesting ideas. The writing styles are less experimental and this makes the book more a page-turner. Although the language of the characters is a kind of Orwellian New-speak it feels natural somehow and does not interfere with the storytelling. Personally i liked this book better then the second book and even the first book. Every writer has his or her strengths and weaknesses and at times i found the writi ...more
David Bonesteel
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The only reason I can't give this book five stars is that the deus ex machina ending was disappointing. Perhaps the communications from beings that live in stars and the existence of a hidden ship that just happens to be awaiting the arrival of our hero wouldn't have seemed so left-field if I had known that this was the third book of a series when I began it. I presume that these are plot elements left over from the first two books. Isn't there some way to let the reader know that before he begi ...more
Jeff Straight
Jul 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all humans
Gregory Benford, a physicist and general all-around big brain, has written a series of books, the Galactic Center Saga in which mankind in the far future is on the run, hiding in the nooks and crannies of previous higher tech civilizations - all the while being chased by the implacable devices of the near God-like machine intelligences. Hmmm - sounds kinda familiar, doesn't it? All very good with lots of action and anguish at the plight of the remaining (I almost said ragtag) scraps of humanity. ...more
This book is full of misspellings and nearly illegible made up conjunctions missing the all-important hyphen! THIS ANGERS ME!!!!
The made up words make for a difficult to follow story, because the reader is constantly playing catch-up, trying to figure out what exactly a given noun refers to.
The machine creatures are lame, and the plot isn't very intellectual.
Mostly, its about the characters and the action, both of which are mediocre.
Pretty much, you could read the fist and last chapter, not much
Jim Hoff
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Sky River is an exceptional tale which delivers so much. Benford's "lyrical" prose is very appealing, right from the start. GSR delivers plenty of action, centered on a group of humans clinging to survival after being nearly hunted to extinction by ruthless "mechs". An excellent start to the Benford's "Galactic Center" series. And yes, I know that it is really a "sequel" to "In the Ocean of Night" and "Across the Sea of Suns", but I never thought that those two meshed well with the later t ...more
May 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good story! Men vs. machines on a distant planet. Men on the run. Benford is good at the very human side (sex, general human relationships) and he is creative here -- the human inadvertently come under the aegis of a machine which is making art by using humans -- essentially they are in its zoo. The lead character rejects this sponsorship and leaves the planet in an old ship, fully realizing that a zoo does not bring out full human potentials. Rather philosophical.
Aug 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Am really enjoying this series. In fact it's been growing on me as the scope of Benford's universe becomes clear. In this book he introduces a new environment and new characters which keeps it fresh for me. Still the tie-in with the previous characters becomes clear if you read the timeline at the end. The ending would be weak, on it's own, except I'm looking forward to how these characters may be important in future books.
Nov 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My personal favorite of the "Galactic Center" series. Benford has roughly sketched out the glorious future of humanity in the galaxy for tens of thousands of years, but most of the shooting is now over for humanity. "Great Sky River" drills down to the refugees of a shattered city in a long-defeated empire of man and gives us a glimmer of hope.

It's a lot of story to absorb and it leaves you wishing for a trilogy to fill the gaps between books #2 and #3.
Nov 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, I liked this one tons better than the first 2 books in this series. Really shifts into a harder variety of sci-fi. It really broke from the flow of the first 2 books, shifting to a whole new planet with new characters with only a tenuous connection to the first 2 books, but the plot line / characters / ideas in it were all great.
Paul Trott
Easily the best book in the series, thus far. The ending felt far too convenient and rushed, though. We go from desert wandering nomads for 95% of the book - treating technology like a magic that is passed on through history, dance and song - to space faring tech heads, all in about 50 pages. A shame.
4 stars, right up until the end.
May 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I agree that this entry in the series feels less dated than the first two, since it is set in the far future. I like the technology Benford introduces, and the way humans and mechs interact. I also like the concepts of the sensorium and the Aspects. I am looking forward to reading the next book.
Stephanie "Jedigal"
Great sci-fi! Very original presentation. Lots of highly imaginative tech, but without dry detailed explanations. I couldn't put it down. Turns out to be the third of a series, but this one at least can be read alone with satisfaction.
Tufty McTavish
Struggled a lot with this, reflected in the nearly 2 months it took to tackle. Wasn't expecting the plot, though I quite liked the final third. Strange sort of universe setup that took a bit of adjusting to.
Dec 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. I picked up at random in the middle of this series and this was the first one I read. Great concepts, world building, and characters. Definitely reading the others. Highly recommended if you dig science fiction.
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Gregory Benford is an American science fiction author and astrophysicist who is on the faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine.

As a science fiction author, Benford is best known for the Galactic Center Saga novels, beginning with In the Ocean of Night (1977). This series postulates a galaxy in which sentient organic life is in constant warfare wit

Other books in the series

Galactic Center (6 books)
  • In the Ocean of Night (Galactic Center, #1)
  • Across the Sea of Suns (Galactic Center, #2)
  • Tides of Light (Galactic Center, #4)
  • Furious Gulf (Galactic Center, #5)
  • Sailing Bright Eternity (Galactic Center, #6)