I must admit that in *Centuries*, Attanasio does not do the best job of
capturing the superior intelligence of his metasapients, but then most authors
usually have problems in representing more-than-human intelligence. Walter Jon
Williams did a good job of it in *Aristoi*, as did Charles Sheffield in
*Proteus*, but I know of few writers who succeeded. Any names?
I personally hated one of Attanasio's books, *The Last Legends of Earth*,
which was almost a mental torture to read, even though some passages were
brilliant. I am also sometimes appalled by his cruelty (read *Wyvern* for
instance, which involves Borneo headhunters and pirates in the 17th century;
*Silent*, which I think was cowritten with a substance-abusing murderer,
probably also qualifies) and irritated by his more psychedelic passages (perhaps influenced by the likes of Carlos Castaneda), but I do think he is one of sf's greatest authors (though I've only read seven of his novels so far; still a dozen to go).
Though I see nothing wrong in plots that pit heroes against villains, I don't think *Centuries* is reducible to this pattern. Attanasio does a very good job of presenting the motivations of the imploders, and though they may be considered as callous on a cosmic scale, I think Attanasio really manages to make them ambiguous, given that death is not final, that there is a multiplicity of universes, and that they are after eternal bliss itself,
BTW, when I characterized "Inherit the Stars" as one of the worst novels on the Extropian reading list, I meant "Voyage to Yesteryear", which I found unreadable and totally devoid of dramatic interest. "Inherit the Stars", on the other hand, though not great literature, is a very pleasant mystery novel on the scale of a planetary system.