Not quite as brilliant as the first one but still very good.
This takes the thread from the epilogue of the last book and weaves a new story from it. It follows a similar pattern to the last book in that it alternates from the ‘present day’ timeline to events in the past. The joint spider/human crew is on a mission to explore a signal it’s received from a distant solar system. What they find there are two planets, one with life that has also evolved from an earth species that has been genetically tampered with, and the other something completely different. What follows is an exploration of what happen with four very different intelligent species meet for the first time.
Though there are broad similarities to the framework of this compared to the first, it has quite a different feel to it. The aliens are even more strange and incomprehensible than the spiders and though it is very interesting and well done, I didn’t engage quite as much as I did previously. I really liked the exploration of the consequences of the ‘enhancements’ of the humans and seeing how the relationship between the species has played out. Though very successful it is not quite as happily ever after as made out from the first book.
There is no extended evolution of a species in this one, well not quite. The flashbacks are all pretty much spent at the same point in time, that of the destruction of the past (our future) human civilisation. This time it is with a crew in the active process of terraforming a new world but dealing with the fallout of that destruction and also with discovering true alien life on another world. These parts have an almost horror-esque vibe to them in places and were my favourite parts of the book. The present day timeline though good, didn’t engage me as much, maybe because I couldn’t connect as easy to the characters, the best one by far is the strange human/machine/organic computing AI that is Avrana Kern, she/it is brilliant. The end felt a little rushed and a bit too pat but didn’t take too much away from my overall enjoyment.
The imagination on show by the author is really great, he manages to explore really great ideas and cool concepts while also writing a good story, it’s a hard combination to pull off. Now I’m sure that I will have to read more of his stuff, and he seems absolutely prolific which is always a bonus.