I am desperately looking for an old science fiction book, I only remember this much:

A woman (I believe) observes an ancient statue of an extinct race that indicates a point in deep space. After much research they arrive on a planet (perhaps frozen) where they are attacked by flying spheres that seem to want to destroy everything technological. After many investigations, at the end of the book they discover that these beings will arrive in 7000 years. I remember the phrase: "is what even the extinct thought"

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    Sounds intriguing. Can you remember when you read the book? That will help to bracket the date. How old was the book? Was it translated from one language to another? Can you remember anything about the cover art? – Invisible Trihedron Jan 30 at 20:28
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    I read the book probably in the 90', or 20 years ago. The book was used. I dont remember cover art, sorry I read it in Italian. Thank you! – Alvaro Bortolato Giuseppe Jan 30 at 21:40

This is Il Sonno degli Dei by Jack McDevitt (original title, The Engines of God). In Italy it was published by Urania, and this is the cover:

enter image description here

(you can still find several copies on eBay).

  • they are not spheres, they are spherical clouds (dubbed "Omega clouds")
  • they come every 8000 years, roughly. They "come from the Void" (the inter-arm empty space towards the Galaxy center). Last time on Earth was around 2500 BCE (the archaeological remains of Mohenjo-Daro), so next visit is around year 5500 CE. If memory serves, we are now around year 4000 CE. Moving at around 5% of light speed, the nearest Omega Clouds are about 75 light-years distant, hopping from habitable star to habitable star.
  • they attack whatever presents sharp corners, which is a telltale of technology
  • the story ends just like you remember - they are orbiting around another planet, Quraquat; in the Italian translation, the guy (I think the copilot) says something to the effect of, "we still have a good one thousand years, that's time enough", and the protagonist looks at the planets, shudders and says, "forse è quello che pensavano anche loro".

The scene you remember takes place on a frozen planet, in a system where they have located an incoming cloud and, to test the hypothesis, land and use a big laser to sculpt an ice mesa into geometrical shapes. Only, they're flying in a geometrical-shaped shuttle which too gets attacked.

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    1000 years to make all products round doesn't sound like a huge problem. – Adamant Jan 31 at 1:32
  • The Engines of God becomes The Slumber of the Gods. Why? Who knows. – Adamant Jan 31 at 1:34
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    @Adamant Urania's title translation has often been a source of wonder. In the novel, there is an alien poetry on planet Quraquat referring to someone who will "tread with the dawn" who "will fire the engines of God". But also the fact that some alien statues on one of Saturn's moons, if I recall correctly, are called "Sleeping Gods". So maybe the translators decided that "Il sonno degli Dei" sounded better than "I motori di Dio" - who knows? Maybe he was reluctant to involve God. – LSerni Jan 31 at 6:54
  • @LSerni, Cultural translation perhaps? Some places are more sensitive to blasphemy than others. – Separatrix Jan 31 at 10:10

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