Scattered throughout the globe of human-occupied space is evidence of a civilization that bestrode the galaxy before humanity was born. Now, a strange device has been discovered that shows the details of that great civilization. The details include a star map and hints that the High Ones are not extinct after all.
The map beckons, and humans, being what they are, will follow. To the next great step in human destiny — or ultimate disaster.
Thomas D. Clareson calls this
Silverberg's finest juvenile, and I'd have to agree – of the stories he's written for younger readers, this is the best. It's intended for teens, though it works well for adults as well. Barring a couple of minor items, the story could work well today. For once, the characters are not all male – a number of females play prominent roles, including a female-form android. The alien characters are alien and treated in a fair amount of depth, even when they're being a bit goofy.
I've always had a liking for
searching for the ancient advanced race stories (read too much Andre Norton as a kid, I guess), and this is a fine example of the form. My only complaint is that once the ending gets rolling, Silverberg wraps it up too quickly, presenting galaxy-shaking consequences in a few paragraphs.
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