Humans spread over their world. They spread in waves across the universe, sprawling and brawling and breeding and dying and evolving. There were wars, there was love, there was life and death. Minds flowed together in great rivers of consciousness, or shattered in sparkling droplets. There was immortality to be had, of a sort, a continuity of identity through copying and confluence across billions upon billions of years.
Everywhere humans found life: crude replicators, of carbon or silicon or metal, churning meaninglessly in the dark.
Nowhere did they find mind – save what they brought with them or created – no other against which human advancement could be tested.
They came to understand that they would forever be alone.
(from Manifold: Origin by Stephen Baxter)
9½*/10. The complete review is here.