Though this may be my ninth Brunner novel to date, the author still manages to surprise me with his unending repertoire of imagination, science and, most surprisingly, humanity. A science fiction novel with the title `Total Eclipse' doesn't exactly ring a novelty bell of sorts, but beyond the so-so peel hides a surprisingly rich fruit.
`Sigma Draconis, nineteen light-years from Earth, had once harbored a world with a high civilization. But that world had died and only certain mysterious artifacts remained - wonderful creations but just one of each kind. By the year 2028, humanity was facing its own final crisis. And the starship STELLARIS was sent to find out the cause of that neighboring race's extinction. If they could discover why, it might mean saving our own world from a similar disaster.'
The only habitable planet within reach of Earth happens to also be home to a myriad scattering of similar structures and cloned crystal memory devices. With a deluge of possible hypotheses of the de-evolution of the mollusk-like species or of the fatal flaw of the same peoples, the thirty-some team of experts try to understand the undoing of an entire species. Each solution is ingenious, each explanation is conceivable.
Just when the plot becomes to feel rather tedious with the unrelenting speculative answers, Brunner takes it up a notch a pulls in a rather ominous mood thereby changing the characters' outlook and even the ominous conclusion to the novel. The eleventh-hour plot is wrenched with emotional onuses which is unlike many of Brunner novels which tend to have a straight forward conclusion.
Total Eclipse has nothing to do with a solar eclipse at all, but the reader must read into the plot unreeling and discover what the title means to the novel and to humanity in general.