There is a lot of exposition in the book. A lot. Exposition can ruin a book and make is a boring, lifeless hunk of pulp. But Reynolds is so good at exposition, it makes the novel.
There is a story. Actually, a really good one. It takes place over decades of time with multiple viewpoint characters. That type of storytelling can get confused and jumbled in the wrong hands, but Reynolds pulls it off very well. It's kind of hard to regurgitate understandably to someone, else, though.
In fact, rather than try to sum up a plot or something, it would probably do better to just describe some things in the book:
- A dead alien planet settled by an entire city of archaeologists.
- A kilometer long, slower than light spacecraft with a technological biology all its own.
- A nanitic plague that takes over technological and biological processes.
- Aliens wrapped in cocoons of space-time.
- Ancient technologies beyond imagining.
- Lovecraftian horrors and insanity.
- Cities mutating beyond control.
- Brain hijacking.
- A planet that is not a planet.
- An assassin, and astronaut, and a novelist walk into a baroque spider, and two get drunk.
- Melding Plague
- Conjoiners, Demarchists, and Ultras
- Triumvirs Volyova, Sajaki, and Hegazi
- Pattern Jugglers, Inhibitors, and Shrouders
- Nostalgia for Infinity
I soooo want to take the ideas from this book and fashion a game setting. Actually, I've been sprinkling the Redshirts games liberally with some of them. But Reynolds has written quite a few books in this same setting - I need to go digest those as well.
So yeah, I recommend the book highly. :)