In the past, they were recognized as the most destructive force in nature. Now, following a cascade of astonishing discoveries, supermassive black holes have undergone a dramatic shift in paradigm. Astronomers are finding out that these objects may have been critical to the formation of structure in the early universe, spawning bursts of star formation, planets, and even life itself. They may have contributed as much as half of all the radiation produced after the Big Bang, and as many as 200 million of them may now be lurking through the vast expanses of the observable cosmos. In this elegant, non-technical account, Melia conveys for the general reader the excitement generated by the quest to expose what these giant distortions in the fabric of space and time have to say about our origin and ultimate destiny.