I just finished reading Linda Nagata’s new book, Silver, which is the second book of her new Inverted Frontier series. It’s a sequel to the first book, Edges, which I recommended earlier this year, and Memory, which I described and recommended a few weeks ago. Characters from both books feature heavily in the new story.
As in all the earlier books, this is a future universe where nanotechnology, mind copying, and interstellar travel (albeit slower than light) are possible. The action centers on an artificial ring shaped world called Verilotus, which was the setting of Memory. The silver that featured so heavily in Memory is confirmed to be nanotechnology, capable of constructing matter and acting as a computational and cognitive substrate.
Urban, after barely surviving his battle with the entity Lezuri, arrives on Verilotus ahead of him. But Urban knows his time is limited. He only has a short period to learn the technology of the world and find a weapon he can use against Lezuri. Lezuri is coming, and as one of the two entities who created that world, he will have all the advantages when he arrives. Lezuri, unhappy with the way his partner entity had shaped Verilotus, wants to reform it for his own purposes, to make it a hellish environment for its inhabitants.
Urban quickly meets Jubilee, a few years after the adventures in Memory. There is an implication that their meeting is not a chance coincidence, but has been orchestrated, possibly by remnants of “the goddess”, Lezuri’s old partner and lover, but now his enemy. As in all the books in this series, there’s a lot going on, but it’s hard to get into too many details without also getting into spoilers.
This is hard science fiction. There is no faster than light travel, so interstellar journey’s take decades or centuries, leaving individual star systems mostly isolated from each other. But it’s not diamond hard. Spacecraft are propelled by mysterious and essentially magic alien technologies, and the nanotechnology often does things that seem questionable in terms of energy, but all of it can conceivably be tucked under Clarke’s Third Law.
As in the other books, mind copying and transfers happen liberally. But there is an interesting discussion in the book about the effects of specific substrates on the mind. One of the characters, having garnered new capabilities and senses in the silver, doesn’t feel a copy of himself in his old substrate wholly represents who he is anymore, and wants to import the silver, the new more advanced substrate, into the old one.
As I’ve noted many times before, I don’t think Nagata gets the credit she deserves. Her stories are imaginative, surreal, and mind expanding. Her earlier series, The Nanotech Succession, deserves to be read in its own right. This new series is a sequel to it, featuring many of the same characters from the earlier series.
If posthuman space opera is your thing, I highly recommend this book, but it shouldn’t be the first in the series that you read. There’s just too much backstory to jump in at this point. At a minimum, you’ll want to read Edges first, and should consider reading Memory, although you could probably get by without it.