A very enjoyable and somewhat bleak near future sci-fi story. Peter Watts definitely has a style, and if you've read Blindsight then you will know what to expect here. The standard elements include extreme and inhuman environments, humans who have been augmented/damaged to the point of being almost alien, genuine aliens, a continual disgust with "normal" human consciousness and aspirations, and an giant pile of interesting ideas that eventually grows of too high and topples over. Overall, the story was like a slightly less polished and slightly softer version of Blindsight. The great beginning is partially marred by the over-profusion of ideas; I feel like Watts could have written a 5 star story by focusing in on 2 or 3 of the ideas/twists that he introduces. However, by the conclusion, when we have reached crazy idea number 7 or 8, the story has become a bit clouded.
Other minor quibbles:
- If you have a dozen characters, some of whom aren't well characterized, then don't randomly switch between using their first and last names.
- The supposed sociopaths who were manning the station really didn't seem that crazy, they just tended to have maladaptive sex fetishes. Otherwise their workplace manner was very professional, and much less crazy than some past co-workers.