Near-future biotechnology yarn and hardcover debut for Hawaii-resident Nagata (The Bohr Maker, etc.). EquaSys researcher Virgil Copeland and his colleagues have developed LOVs, artificial neurons that form colonies and, when implanted in humans, focus and enhance emotions. After a dangerous incident, the powerful watchdog IBC banished the LOV colonies to an orbiting station, where they thrived and perhaps grew sentient. Believing the LOVs safe, Virgil and his associates illegally implanted LOV colonies in their foreheads. But now, researcher Gabrielle lies dead and the deception can no longer be maintained. The IBC, intending to destroy the LOVs as a plague, or grab and exploit them in secret, imprisons Virgil. The orbiting LOV colonies, however, grasp the situation and deliberately crash the station into the ocean off Thailand. Virgil escapes jail and heads for the crash area. Investigating the crash site, meanwhile, starving journalist Ela Suvanatat becomes infected with LOV survivors, finding the symbiosis beneficial in every way. Ashore, she's contacted by Ky Xuan Nguyen, whom she suspects of being a gangster, and his child-army helpers, the Roi Nuoc, whose actions are guided by an artificial intelligence called Mother Tiger. But then Ela's LOVs grow sick—they've been bred to be dependent on rare chemicals—and, in desperation, she contacts the fugitive Virgil. As the IBC closes in, Ela and Virgil must find a way to preserve themselves and their LOVs.
Inventive, exciting, and challengingly ambiguous, with a nonexistent ending and, clearly, sequels in mind.