First hardcover from the author of Song of Chaos, etc. Reis, a planet occupied exclusively by twentysomething artists, or so it seems, falls victim to a deadly plague and is quarantined. RICE, the part-organic artificial intelligence that runs Reis, searches fruitlessly for a cure. The artists, meanwhile, gather in the Metz Club, which they artfully decide to rename the Metzhaus. Peter Haas is a chess whiz; his destined opponent, Senga Grieg, is masochistically obsessed with RICE. The latter, it emerges, has been infected with human DNA; grown hormonally adolescent, RICE can't cope with the resulting emotional storms. Mathematician Johanna Henning, no longer able to interface with RICE, scribbles in her diary as the Metzhaus gang endlessly yak. As the plague rages, artist Jens propounds the idea of individual death as art. Stephan, after a feeble suicide attempt, is found murdered in the club, very artistically thinks Jens. Other organizations, such as Black Wire and the Nihilo Group, take the notion a step further and stage their own artistic mass murders. RICE asks Jens to supply it with the nutrients it needs in order to mature. Peter loses the chess showdown, but he can handle it. Finally, RICE, wiping its accumulated data on a possible cure, decides it's better to let the plague run its course. Readers who've struggled this far will only applaud. Languid decadence with sadomasochistic overtones, set forth in creamy smooth prose: both arty and empty.