Paperback: 562 pages
Publisher: Tor; New Ed edition (6 Jul 2007)
Book #4 in the Cormac sequence, the threats to the AI-led Polity appear to be increasing. There are still Separatists causing anarchy in their quest for a Humanity not ruled by Artificial Intelligences (though, as in Banks's Culture, most inhabitants deeply approve of the AIs doing the governing, since humans by nature don't do it well). The enigmatic Dragon (an alien construct originally comprising 4 conjoined spheres, of which two survive) may or may not be a problem. And the impossibly infectious nanotech of Jain Technology may or may not be around.
And some of the AI warships have declared UDI and gone missing.
The previous novel, Brass Man, did end on a note of completion, or at least resolution. The problem with this one is that it doesn't: it reads very much like the middle novel of a trilogy. There's a new threat introduced without the old threats being solved. New characters have arrived, and old ones gone, but we've not really got to know them yet (except perhaps for Arach, a belligerent spider-form war drone strongly reminiscent of, again, Banks). By the end, we have had a major battle ending in something of a stalemate, a world ruined by Jain tech, and a character who may possibly be the saviour, or possibly the doom, of the Polity.
But we have found out the truth about Horace Blegg.
Here's hoping the fifth book resolves the threads.