Code of the Lifemaker
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Over a million years before the present, a robot "Searcher" ship built by an advanced alien race to seek out suitable worlds to seed with self-replicating manufacturing facilities for supplying the home planet is hit by the radiation blast from a supernova, which wreaks havoc on its sensor and computing systems. All the same, it finds a world that its partly-working instrumentation judges to be exploitable, and it sets to work initiating a growing system of replicating factories and attendant robots which will eventually spread over the surface. Thereafter, everything goes wrong. Fast forward to the near future. Probes exploring the outer planets discover beneath its the cloud cover of Saturn's giant moon, Titan, a bizarre ecosystem of living, reproducing machines. More astonishing still, an intelligent race called the "Taloids" have evolved out of the chaos, who grow their houses and artifacts organically, but whose offspring are assembled externally in factories.

Mainly as a publicity gimmick, and to the outrage of the official scientists, media superstar "psychic" Karl Zambendorf finagles a position for himself and his support team of strange, assorted talents on the mission despatched to initiate contact. The Taloids have put together their own brand of religion based on belief in an ultimate creator of machines--and hence life--that is not itself a machine, so the effect on them of encountering Terrans can be imagined. In this weird setting, Zambendorf becomes the Taloids' champion against financial and industrial interests seeking to exploit Titan's vast production potential, in the process finding himself cast in a role more bizarre than anything that has gone before in his erratic and checkered career.

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