A huge, sprawling, epic of a space opera, aka sci fi drama/intergalatic war stuff. This thing is as long as three books, but since there are something like four plot threads interweaving throughout, it doesn’t look possible to separate this doorstop into say, a trilogy. That’s because — get this — it is the first in a trilogy all by itself! Good grief. And, much to my annoyance, even after almost 1,000 pages, it STILL didn’t come to any kind of satisfying conclusion, but stops rather abruptly with ends dangling all over the place.
It is set in the year 2380, and wormhole technology, which has made its developers kabillionaires, has opened interstellar space to pioneering efforts for many people. Earth itself has become the most expensive place to live, and is populated primarily by the supremely wealthy. Various planets have become home to specialized interests, and after a massive civil war, humanity has come to its senses and now under the aegis of the Commonwealth, life proceeds apace, mainly without violence but definitely still with polluting tendencies on many of the newly settled worlds. Phase Three of space development is just about to open up, the main Big 15 families are jockeying for financial positions at the trough, and life seems just hunky dory.
Biogenetic engineering has produced the ability to rejuvenate the folks, so the potential is there to live forever, and many of the characters in the story have gone through rejuv a couple of times and are several hundred years old. Hasn’t seemed to make them all that much wiser, but then, that’s human nature. Also, a brief foray into engineering human types for various jobs a la Brave New World, has produced a women who is the world’s best detective who never gives up. That plotline has her chasing an elusive member of the Guardians, a rebel group who believes an abandoned starship on one of the outer planets has something to do with aggressive aliens. This guy is the only case she has never been able to close.
We have the Silfens, a strange alien culture who seem to have their own ‘wormholes’ into various worlds and dimensions, and one plotline is a guy trying to walk the ‘paths’, as they are called, to get to their home area or planet.
One plotline is all political, about who is maneuvering who and what, and sounds pretty much like the present day stuff, getting projects funded, and putting people in charge of this and that.
A distant star pair, the Dyson Twins, has been mysteriously surrounded by an impenetrable barrier of some kind, and an obscure astronomer was able to see it actually happen — when the distant star suddenly disappears. Of course, that happened a thousand years or or more, because by the time the light from that star cluster reached the outer planet where the astronomer’s lab was located, it was already a done deal. An exploratory starship is built to go see what’s up with that. Seeing as how these folks have not only the wormhole technology, but FTL (that’s Faster Than Light) speed ships, they get out there in a few months, only to have the barrier <poof> wink out of existence before their very eyes, where they can see enormous nuclear battles going on among the planets of that star system. Gee. Guess we know now why some mysterious force put up the barrier in the first place — to contain them.
Another plotline is the Prime, an alien species that is maybe best described as being like mushroom borgs, whose collective brain power is what makes stuff happen.
It is all very intertwined and complex and has all the requisite ingredients for space opera: nifty hard science futuristic technology, some cool characters, motives of greed and boredom, and of course, the closing battle scene.
It took me forever to read this, because I have the attention span of a gnat for political machinations, and there was a lot of that, plus, I didn’t want to devote my entire life to this one book. So I would intersperse readings with other books of other genres, and frankly, I am not going to bother with the sequel because I cheated and went to Wiki, the Motherload of Plot Spoilers, to discover it was going to be more of the same, and you can stick a fork in me because I am so done with this.
Fun read, really long, great futuristic technology stuff, some clever creative ideas for the world building. I liked it. OK, now on to something else.