on Aug. 24, 2013 :
This book spans an enormous amount of time and covers a lot of ideas. I can't think of any recent SF book that tries to take on this challenge, though a few classics like the Foundation Trilogy by Asimov and City by Clifford Simak come to mind. The author drops you in many different times and places and follows a big cast of characters through a very complex set of events. It's hard SF, so expect technical details. The author did her homework. Not many novels have an appendix, but this one does include a list of some of the scientific ideas in the book for those who want to explore them further.
Most of the time, we are dropped into scenes and have to figure out the situation from context. This usually helps immerse you in the story, but it is sometimes jarring or unclear at the beginning of scenes until you get used to it. The plot also weaves many threads that play out over time. It all does work, but you have to pay attention. All in all, it's mostly a well-written book that makes you think, and it took a lot of skill to weave it together.
There are a few flaws in the book. Near the beginning is a conversation with a big info dump regarding global warming. The dialog is much more natural through the rest of the book, though, so don't be turned off by that one instance near the start. I think the reasons for some things are glossed over too much. For example, how the nano-plague starts and why is never fully explained (or perhaps I missed it). A few other things could use some more clarity.
The end manages to tie everything together pretty well, though I wish it included more detail. Because we spend so little time in the far future, I'm not sure exactly what kind of order is finally established. I get the sense (perhaps wrong) that AI's become gods and humanity never really managed to solve its own problems and evolve into something better on its own. It's kind of hard to tell, honestly. Still, the dizzying sense of time passing and great things occurring is something a lot of authors don't have the courage or skill to tackle. The ending isn't bad, I just wanted more answers.
It's an interesting and ambitious book and well worth reading. Just make sure your brain has received its annual checkup and is in good working order before you start, because you'll need it!
(reviewed the day of purchase)