Second part of Daniel’s far-future space opera, following the astonishing Metaplanetary (2001).
Hundreds of years from now, unbreakable sentient cables link the inner planets together to form the Met; sophisticated “grist” (nanotechnology) underlies everything; many humans exist as LAPs (Large Array of Personalities); “cloudships,” huge intelligent spaceships, inhabit the far reaches of the solar system. Director Amés, a megalomaniac, predatory LAP, controls the Met through his Department of Immunity, and has launched a vast war to destroy or capture the outer planets and moons with their swarms of odious “free converts” (independent, sentient computer programs), free-thinkers, radicals, and other freedom-loving beings. Near Neptune and Pluto, Colonel Roger Sherman organizes the defenses, while his estranged son Leo joins the Met army and is dispatched to Neptune. On Mars, young freedom fighter Aubry organizes a raid on Silicon Valley, a prison camp where free converts are tortured and killed, hoping to free her mother. And, in the single new element in the mix, Amés sends genius physicist Li to Mercury to do research—Li's breakthrough hints at the possibility of faster-than-light travel—where LAP Professor Hamarabi Techstock becomes her lover. Soon, however, Li realizes that Amés has absorbed Techstock, and that she’s enslaved to Amés' electronic ecstasy, the Glory. When her mother falls ill, Li attempts to visit her illicitly, but Amés captures her and sends her to a prison camp on Earth, where she meets an 800-year-old sentient Jeep.
A thumb-twiddler of an installment, swollen to absurd dimensions by repetition and reportage, with none of the individual struggles resolved or even fully engaged.