Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Tor; New Ed edition (7 Mar 2003)
This is the book that comes before The Voyage of the Sable Keech. In my review of that novel, I said I was impressed, but confused by not knowing where everything had come from, and that I really should have read some of the others first. This is the story that directly precedes it, introducing us to the planet Spatterjay and the nearly indestructible Hoopers that are the somewhat mutated inhabitants.
It's deft, fast moving, not too serious SF involving hornet hive minds, instantaneous trans-galaxy communications, an ecology from hell (with chapter headings neatly following the food web from one end to the other), and touches of humour such as when a gung-ho robot drone gets swallowed by an endangered denizen and is instructed to wait for nature to take its course before continuing his quest - except that the robot drone has anti-gravity drive, and starts flying around with the body of the giant fish enclosing him.
A mixture of the quite brutal with the deeply silly.