Sequel to Marrow (2000), Reed’s astonishing saga set inside a spaceship so huge that an entire planet nestled, undetected, at its center.
The Great Ship, constructed of all but indestructible hyperfiber, hosts hundreds of species. Now damaged after a dreadful war following the events of Marrow, the ship heads inescapably toward a huge, dark, cold nebula known as the Ink Well. Its Master Captain discredited and sidelined, the ship is conned by Submasters Washen, her lover Pamir and an alien harum-scarum called Osmium. The Ink Well, they learn, is inhabited by planet-sized watery blobs called polyponds who seem able to communicate over vast distances and manipulate matter with ease: they may even be a single, unthinkably complex, entity. At first helpfully sweeping gas, dust and rocks from the Great Ship’s path, the polyponds, it gradually becomes clear, have another agenda altogether, involving Marrow, the molten-iron planet at the Great Ship’s core, and its strange, ancient, sleeping passenger. Other complications: Mere, a woman raised by aliens and by far the ship’s best hope to understand the nature and intentions of the polyponds, departs on a secret mission; O’Layle, who once helped exterminate an entire alien species, the !eech, and fled the ship during the war, eagerly curries favor with his rescuer, a polypond called the Blue World; and Locke, Washen’s Marrow-born son, with his chilling hypothesis about the Great Ship and its remorseless pursuers.
Again, hypercomplicated, dense with ideas and a plot that works itself into a fine old lather: amazing and satisfying both, with the promise of a third volume to conclude the proceedings.