Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Gollancz (7 Feb 2008)
The final one of the Egan books I bought recently (there's been a re-release, with consistent cover designs) and that I didn't already own, this is another one where the ideas will overwhelm many readers. With a mix of speculation on biology, computation, cosmology and quantum physics all spun together, like Schild's Ladder this is not an easy read. And it's not an easy one to summarise either, since each chapter builds on the previous one to such an extent that by the end, the wild imaginings of the start seem almost mundane.
Perhaps the very first chapter, which portrays the birth of an artificial (yet not designed) intelligence, is a good starter. When you discover that this intelligence is scared of little except a Coke can in the ruins of Atlanta (the brand's not explicitly named, but this is Atlanta, so it's unlikely to be Pepsi), and is to be the likeable central character, you can only marvel at Egan's daring.
Hard SF that shows ideas as king.