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In 1997, the world of “it’s all online” was even futher away than it is now, and Greg Bear did a pretty good job anticipating a lot of it. This story takes place in a future where the US is fractured into many different political regions and the unifying theme for people is their consumption of data feeds called Yox. These are sort of lowest-common-denominator geared entertainment streams or feeds that people on welfare can just barely afford. Through all this something nefarious is happening. People who received therapy -- which itself happens through the addition of internal nanotech that keeps things balanced -- are finding it failing, chaos is sneaking in, things are falling apart. This book follows a set of disparate characters who all play small roles until the big brouhaha at the end of it.

Readers who enjoy Bear will like this, there’s lots of fun science and verbatim quotes from the Yox while ring errily true to how a lot of Internet stuff seems to be going. On the downside, there is no central character and I spent a lot of time in the book keeping track of what seemed to me to be three or four separate stories. All of these stories were fine, none of them was so compelling that I was dying to know what happened next which is how I often feel when reading Bear’s books. This was a lot of balls to keep in the air at once and while I liked all the characters somewhat, I didn’t like any of them enough to really care and worry about what happened to them. As a result, the final scenes where they all come together were a little disjointed and cluttered with a bunch of characters I felt like I barely knew. It’s just a small kvetch though, overall I enjoyed Bear’s new world