Sort of futuristic police procedural/psychocrime brain-twiddler, as Bear continues his rather obsessive exploration of a single theme: the perfectibility of humanity. In 2047, the wealthy and therapied classes live in huge, luxurious "combs"; bodies can be reshaped to any design; eco-criminals and such, beyond the ambit of the police, are captured and torture-brainwashed by vengeful Selectors. For no apparent reason, poet Emmanuel Goldsmith murders six people in his apartment, then vanishes. Reshaped cop Mary Choy is assigned to track Goldsmith down, only to end up freeing Goldsmith's brother (a case of mistaken identity) from punishing Selectors. Untherapied writer Richard Fettle, once Goldsmith's friend until betrayed by him, explores Goldsmith's motivations as a form of self-therapy. Industrialist Thomas Albigoni, whose daughter was one of Goldsmith's victims, captures Goldsmith and hired discredited therapist Martin Burke (he of the miraculous new technique) to probe the murderer's psyche, then discovers that Goldsmith is the victim of a sort of demonic possession. And elsewhere: an intelligent interstellar probe, AXIS, explores the planets of Alpha Centauri in the hopes of finding advanced lifeforms, and in its loneliness and despair becomes self-aware. Many individually quite impressive parts that don't add up to a coherent whole. Damaging, too, is the absence of recognizable characters, as well as the overblown, obscuring symbolism. Better, overall, than Bear's recent offerings--but not by much.