David Marusek's Mind Over Ship is the long-awaited sequel to his groundbreaking 2005 debut novel Counting Heads, and it was worth the wait.
Mind Over Ship returns to the awesomely weird and exciting Marusek future, where humanity trembles on the verge of transcendence, splintering into people, clones, avatars, AIs, temporary and permanent models (some made without the model-ee's consent) and a thousand other fragments. Each of these factions battles for the best deal it can get -- even as the individual members of each clade fight for their own personal best interests.
Mind Over Ship is so complex, with so many storylines and so many incredibly inventive premises, that it trembles on the verge of breakdown, acrobatically walking on a tightrope over the pit of too-weird. It's a book that demands and rewards attention, as it explores a hundred important philosophical questions about free will, destiny, bioethics, intelligence, and duty.
For example, there's the story of the betrayal of the cold-sleep deep-space ships, which are meant to be launching by the dozens to distant, unexplored stars (but which have been co-opted for use as space-condos in a hostile corporate takeover). This leaves their erstwhile owners -- semi-sovereign collectives of Jesus freaks, defective spare-organ clones of VIPs, fatalistic Ukrainian Chernorbyl survivors, and other disaffected groups yearning to breath the air of distant worlds -- out in the cold.
Then there's the biowar flu, "the 24-hour nonspecific grief flu," which causes its victims to feel, well, nonspecific grief for 24 hours, before their immune systems fight the bugs off. Read the rest