As warned by a friend, the ideas here are pretty fascinating — the book might be fifteen years behind in terms of science, but there’s nothing inherently ridiculous about the idea based on the scientific knowledge of the time — but the actual narrative is pretty deadly boring. Some of the writing is just… why would you let that slip past, editor? Hard SF isn’t just about the cool ideas: there has to be some element of execution there as well, or there’s no point in writing it as a novel — there’d be a non-fiction audience for speculation about the future too, undoubtedly.
It’s pretty unfortunate, since Bear did the work here in setting up the world, figuring out the details, making A lead to B without a gap in logic. Unfortunately, the prose is flat, most of the characters likewise, and isn’t there a song with lyrics that go I don’t care a lot? Because it’s in my head right now.