First-timer Wright wrings new surprises from a familiar SF scenario: the protagonist must recover his lost memory before civilization falls. The Golden Oecumene encompasses every imaginable type of colony, lifestyle, and intelligence, both human and posthuman; Sophotects, artificial intelligences incomparably more powerful that a single human, provide guidance; immortality has been achieved; the difference between reality and computer-generated dreams no longer seems relevant. To the approval of the College of Hortators, the Seven Peers—the Oecumene's richest, most powerful individuals—plan to take absolute control of this perfect civilization. At the millennial High Transcendence revels, Phaethon discovers that he can remember nothing of the previous five hundred years. Waylaid by a Neptunian, one of a half-inorganic, multibrained, trickster race that thrives near absolute zero, Phaethon mistrustfully rejects the being's offer to restore his memories. Through diligent searching assisted by Rhadamanthus, his House's Sophotect, Phaethon finds that he's invested enormous resources in building a spacesuit of an impervious wonder-metal, and learns that he voluntarily agreed to sequester his memories. If he does not access the stored memories for 90 days, he will inherit the estate of his father Helion, killed near Mercury defending the Oecumene against a solar flare. The current Helion, now a Peer, is a relic who can't legally claim continuity with his predecessor. If Phaethon breaks the agreement, he will be exiled, penniless, his immortality lost by default. Yet what if he needs those memories to counter a threat to the Oecumene itself?
This extraordinary feat of invention and plotting would be all the more impressive had the book not ended with the central mystery unresolved, leaving readers dazzled and annoyed in equal measure.