This is the only Greg Bear book that I haven’t thought was just awesome. It’s the follow-up to the “end of the world” novel Forge of God which was really pretty interesting. This entire book takes place in spaceships after the destruction of the earth and a team of children are assigned by unknown beings to destroy the beings who destroyed their planet. It’s convoluted and weird and bear has a real task set out for himself to describe a whole bunch of places that are completely foreign, with no familiar hooks to hang descriptions off of.
That said, it’s flat. There is a lot of description and very little human interaction that is familiar. The kids are precocious, bisexual, and directed in almost all of their daily routines by these silver robots. It reads a lot like the child packs in some of Orson Scott Card’s novels but with less of an emphasis on social aspects. In short, I didn’t like any of the characters and there was a lot about how their society was organized that just needed to be taken at face value. Many of the rules seemed odd or forced. When the kids have to interact with other alien life forms, Bear has obviously gone through a lot of trouble to think out how a completely alien life form would appear and interact. However, it seems like a sci fi exercise more than a coherent story that someone else would want to read. As a sequel it just barely gives a nod to the previous book and shares none of its compelling parts.