A sentient black hole passes through the solar system, and decides that it wants to have a friendly chat with the people of Earth. Or maybe it just wants to eat the planet and suck our brains, instead? Benford specialises in old-skool “scientist as hero” science fiction, and Eater is just that. A group of astronomers studying the Eater get drawn into the politics surrounding its approach. As well as trying to figure out the Eater’s motivations and capabilities, they also have to navigate the hazards of earthy power struggles, and a society on the brink of collapse in the face of a potential apocalypse. Unfortunately, Benford doesn’t catch the balance quite right with this one. It’s too heavy on the science, and the characters’ reactions don’t get much beyond fruitless emotional pleadings. It’s a fast read, but apart from the core idea, a forgettable one.