The eponymous protagonist, Laurent Michaelmas, is an ex-hacker who had, early
in the computer era, left back doors in many key pieces of software which run
vital government & commercial computers. As a result, by the turn of the
millennium, he’s become one of the most powerful men on earth, because of his
ability to spy & influence through the world wide computer network.
By the time of the novel, Michaelmas has successfully used his power to create
& sustain a powerful version of the UN to ensure world peace. He stays in the
background, however, as a journalist, albeit a highly influential & respected
one whose opinions can still influence public opinion. However, as the novel
progresses, he slowly learns that a possible extraterrestrial presence may be
interfering with the new world he has worked so hard to create.
The novel is remarkable for its prescience, because it appeared less than a
decade into the Internet era, long before its current prominence & ubiquity.
Its description of journalism & its professional culture are likewise highly
developed, mainly due to the late Budrys' residence near Northwestern
University’s Medill School of Journalism, which appears in the book.
The plague struck, and ninety percent of Earth's population died. Those who survived tried to maintain some sort of civilization… which meant more killing, as it turned out. But bit by bit, generation by generation, people began to succeed. With occasional setbacks.
From Robert Silverberg’s “Earthmen and Strangers” anthology, 1966:
When we meet the aliens, how will we communicate with them? A standard piece of s-f equipment is generally offered as the answer: the “thought-converter.” Most writers are content to haul the thought-converter from the closet, put it on their characters’ heads, and let the conversation commence. One of the special features of this story is the care with which its author has depicted the communication problems that will be cropping up even when the handy thought-converter is available. He examines a deeper problem, too: how, when we drop down from the heavens to visit the inhabitants of other worlds, can we keep them from thinking of us as gods?
Algis Budrys, who has the general dimensions of an outstanding fullback and the story-telling ability of a master, was born in Lithuania in the decade before the outbreak of the Second World War and has spent most of his life in the United States. Since 1952 s-f readers have relished scores of his short stories and such thoughtful, searching novels as and
Martino was a very important scientist, working on something called the K-88. But the K-88 exploded in his face, and he was dragged across the Soviet border. There he stayed for months. When they finally gave him back, the Soviets had given him a metal arm… and an expressionless metal skull. So how could Allied Security be sure he actually was Martino?
The moon had finally been reached, and on it was found the most terrifying structure, that killed men over and over again, in torturous, unfathomable ways. Only a mad scientist and a suicidal maniac could explore it’s horrible secrets.
The book is about the discovery and investigation of a large alien artifact found on the surface of the Moon. The object eventually kills its explorers in various ways, but their deaths slowly reveal the funhouse-like course humans must take in moving through it.