This first collaborative effort from Clarke, the venerable author of 3001: The Final Odyssey (1997), etc., and the up-and-coming Baxter (Manifold: Time, Jan. 2000, etc.), exploits an old SF idea: a device that allows anyone to spy on anyone else, anywhere…and anytime. Well, the denizens of this near-future know that, in 500 years, the giant Wormwood asteroid will smash Earth. Unscrupulous, manipulative Hiram Patterson's WormCam - it uses stabilized quantum wormholes to connect any two points - is the perfect all-purpose spy-eye; nothing can be concealed and so privacy is rendered obsolete. Among other developments: Hiram's son Bobby is surprised to learn that he has a brilliant physicist half-brother by the name of David. As WormCam technology spreads, politicians and other public figures crash and burn - their misdeeds cannot be concealed. David modifies the WormCam to probe the past…and the accepted version of history collapses. New mores develop. Many find the present intolerable and use their WormCams compulsively to relive the past. Bobby's half-sister Mary invents the SmartShroud that conceals the wearer from the WormCam; and she implants a wormhole-and-computer in her head, allowing the instant sharing of thoughts with those similarly equipped. Known as the "Joined," they're developing into a collective intelligence - but can they stop Wormwood?
Often chaotic but fizzing with ideas: one of those rare books you wish had been longer, with a more thorough exploration of the many fascinating issues it raises. ($250,000 ad/promo)