A crippled god tries to return to his broken creation. A man pursues, trying to stop him from gaining more power. A young woman looks for her lost love.
This book is quite different than its predecessor, Edges. Much of the action takes place on Verilotus, the artificial world that Lezuri, that god-like castaway picked up by Dragon in the proceeding book, created.
At the climax to Edges, a chase ensued following the Pyrrhic War which wrested control of the Dragon from Lezuri. But not a chase of bodies but of minds encoded as information, “ghosts”, as Lezuri beamed himself from the information systems of outriding vessel to outriding vessel.
Eventually, he took control of one and headed to Verilotus where a fight with a “goddess” left him crippled and that settlement wrecked. It seems the two entities, possessing extremely sophisticated nanotechnology, created a world but disagreed as to its ultimate use.
But Urban, the leader of the Dragon expedition, is in pursuit. As far as he knows, Dragon is still in Lezuri’s hands, and he won’t communicate with it for fear that his incarnation in one of those outriders will be detected.
Urban wants to reach the world first and stop Lezuri from using its nanotech resources to gain further power.
On Verilotus, a ring-like world where humans live on the outer rim, Urban meets Jubilee and her younger brother Jolly.
If Jubilee and Jolly sound familiar to long time Nagata readers, that’s because they and Verilotus were at the center of Nagata’s Memory. This takes place about four years after that story, and Nagata has seamlessly stitched the novel into her Nanotech Succession series and provides a clear explanation of the strange phenomena on Verilotus. I know because I didn’t read Memories until after this novel.
Verilotus is a world with its own version of nanotechnology, the same Lezuri uses though Jolly and Jubilee don’t know that and only learned to control some of its secrets in Memories.
They join with Urban to try to take down Lezuri.
Despite a few slow spots, Nagata mostly keeps the story moving even in a book this long. Surprisingly, she brings all her players to the table about midway in her plot rather than much later which is what most writers would do. It works though.
Besides the battle between competing nanotechnologies, one the “makers” of Urban and the other Lezuri’s, I liked the conflict between Jubilee and Jolly when the latter, curious, decides to have an “atrium”, an artificially generated brain organ, put in his head by Urban. To Jubilee, in a world where nanotechnology control is centered around temples, this is major overturning of the culture of their world.
Other characters from Edges show up – nobody actually died in the Pyrrhic War. Nagata continues to exploit the many uses of her nanotechnology while still presenting it as a technology needing energy and raw materials. As in the preceding novel, some startling things happen if you just treat minds as recorded information that can be edited and duplicated and transmitted. And some characters are going to have to assume our primitive existence – one mind, one incarnation, no backups.
Nagata chose a variety of narrative voices here. Many of Jolly’s sections are narrated in her voice. Lezuri’s viewpoint characters are in second person which, when dealing with a god, seems more appropriate than Vyet’s second person sections in Edges.
And, as befitting a struggle with a god, Jubilee and Jolly will feel the world shift beneath their feet by story’s end.
As an aside, I liked how Riffan, right up to the end, holds on to the foolish naivete of a cultural anthropologist when he tries to negotiate with Lezuri.
We get very slight hints of what may have went on in the Hallowed Vasties, and I hope Nagata, at some point, decides to return to this universe.