Months after The Inferior (2008) left off, this sequel finds cannibal Stopmouth journeying from the primitive surface where he lives to the high-tech world of the Roof, abandoning his tribe to save them.
When Diggers close in on the Havens Stopmouth protects, he can't wait any longer for Indrani to return with weapons. The tribe's survival depends on Stopmouth's traveling to the Roof's advanced civilization to retrieve weapons and his wife. The reveals about the world of the Roof—both from Stopmouth's perspective and a new Roof-dwelling character's close third-person point of view—answer questions previously raised about the nature of Stopmouth's world while expanding into themes of morality and the nature civilization. The Roof is also endangered—a virus attacking nanotechnology renders society impotent, overcrowded and in crisis. The crisis inflames tensions between Seculars and Religious. The factions' power struggle's lynchpin is the missing Indrani, valued for a secret everyone needs to know—Stopmouth must somehow navigate this strange culture to get to her first. While sometimes disorienting through confusing plot points and lack of anchoring description, the rich characters and themes of moral ambiguity thrive in well-paced prose that encourages readers to overlook flaws.
Eventually, the stakes have been raised just about as high as possible, inviting strong-stomached readers to return for the next book to see how the characters go about fixing their worlds. (Science fiction. 13 & up)