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Not certain when I may have read this; 10-20 years ago is the best range I can come up with. Not even certain whether it was a novel or something shorter.

The memory of the setting felt kinda post-apocalyptic, because I think it's Earth but just a rural town setting. There's a young woman tending to "Minds", which are some sort of artificial construct or life-form that links up with human minds over a wide area. The Minds provide telepathic and empathic communication to all the humans, and I think it's implied this is why things have stayed peaceful for so long after whatever set the world back. There's also a tone carried by the young woman that this is also why nothing changes much, that people are over-reliant on these Minds.

So the Minds detect some sort of catastrophe headed for Earth. It's thought to be some kind of comet or asteroid, but the Minds can sense something on it. Turns out it was some alien probe (maybe set to gather samples or study other worlds), but it had gone quite nuts and was just "collecting" everything it could grab and freezing it into stasis on it's surface, like the universe's worst hoarder. It arrives and a bunch of "walk into the light" scenes play out all over the world, and with the telepathic pull this thing has lots of humans go for it, including friends and family. The Minds sacrifice themselves to the pull both to push the thing away from Earth and to try to merge with it to prevent this from continuing to terrorize every planet it nears. The last scene ends with the young woman finding a proto-Mind that the originals had managed to construct, and the tone is that the people left will have to figure things out and communicate on their own now, but at least could still have a little help.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

2

I finally stumbled across the book while trying to search for my other open question; it sounds a bit different, but I'm sure this was Homesmind, by Pamela Sargent.

From Amazon's description:

"Anra is a solitary. She was born without the power to mindspeak and cannot, like all of her fellows can, communicate in unspoken thoughts. In the past, she would have been killed at birth but the arrival of the Wanderer, the comet controlled by the cybernetic intelligence known as the Homesmind has changed everything. The people of the comet, the skydwellers, now supply solitaries with implants that allow artificial mindspeaking. The solitaries are sequestered in a single village willing to care for such children. Anra and her new brethren were thought to be the possible bridge between the people of Earth and the skydwellers but the gap may be too great since the people of Earth consider solitaries an abomination and the skydwellers as soulless. The solitaries are, instead, outcasts in two worlds, part of each but fully accepted in neither. Another comet enters the system, refusing to communicate with Homesmind and speaking to the people of Earth with the voices of their own dead, seducing them into a submission of their individual wills and trying to lure them to oblivion. Anra and he fellow solitaries have the power to resist their call but can they unite in time to save everyone else? "

I hadn't realized it was part of a series, nor that there was another comet involved, nor the segregation bit... well, I was in the ballpark, I guess.

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