This sequel to Queen of Angels (1990) continues Bear's exploration of artificial intelligence and nanotechnology in the mid-21st century. Robber Jack Giffey--he likes to challenge machines, though he isn't what he appears to be--prepares to break into Omphalos. Omphalos, supposedly a cryogenic repository stuffed with valuables, is actually a huge survival fortress run by Roddy, a bacteria-based distributed neural network created by crazy genius Seefa Schnee. The owner of Omphalos is Aristos, a secret organization of super-rich whose members intend to destroy society while they hide inside Omphalos. Schnee has already distributed a nanovirus that breaks down the genetic, physical, or mental therapy upon which millions of people depend. Meanwhile, Jill, the first artificial intelligence to become aware, is contacted by a previously unknown AI--the well-informed but possibly untrustworthy Roddy. As the FBI puts together a team to investigate Omphalos and Aristos, Giffey's assault gets under way; Roddy attacks Jill and takes her over. The FBI rallies its investigators, Giffey discovers he's really someone else, and Jill fights desperately for her life. Complexity without clarity; Bear's yarn eventually packs quite a wallop, but what with the numbing present-tense narrative it seems to take forever to get there.