A bit of a random one this. My friend David Carrington bought me it as a birthday present.
It is AMAZING! Absolutely everything a modern sci-fi novel should be. It has aliens who are alien! Not just because they have pointy ears, but because their cultural values are radically different from humans. And us humans, for once, aren’t the founders of a mighty Empire – we’re a small, obscure species tentatively trying to gain acceptance.
It holds inclusivity as a core concept. It isn’t like Star Trek where it feels tacked on, there is a thread woven through the whole novel about the kindness we owe to other people. No matter how strange they may appear to us, they are valid and valued beings. The sex scenes aren’t explicit – but there are a lot of hormones flying around (or whatever aliens have)! Love is a key theme. Not just emotional and sexual – but fraternal and cybernetical.
In terms of plot – it’s a fairly standard video-game style mission with a bunch of side-quests. Each location is filled with a vivid depictions of weird and wonderful cultures mashed together. Sure, it covers all the standard sci-fi tropes, but it never once falls into cliché. Instead there’s a rich galaxy brimming with possibilities.
Of course, every sci-fi book has to be part of an epic series these days. And this has spawned several sequels. But it is nice that this book has a satisfying ending.