This book was an interesting mixture of elements I like (interesting characters and a mostly original story idea) with things I usually don't care for (the excessive technical details and world building of hard sf). But I found that I could skip the jargon without missing much, and ended up liking the book quite a bit.
While I didn't realize it at the time I ordered this book, The Children Star is yet another book occurring in the Door Into Ocean universe. Happily, it seems to be the book immediately following Daughter of Elysium, however, it has also been some time since I've read Daughter, so it took me a while to remember what I'd learned from Daughter about the characters, races, and planets that were also mentioned in The Children Star. Then again, this isn't exactly a sequel, so perfect memory of such was not a requirement.
The basic set-up is this: the needs and demands of the Fold are ever increasing. The L'liites continue to overpopulate every planet they gain a foothold on and are looking for new territory. Valedon continues to demand gemstones. The eternal Elysians need rare earth metals to build their servos and gadgets. Prokaryon has all these. It also has its own fascinating (and highly toxic to both humans and unaltered sentient machines) ecology, in such rigid order as to strongly suggest the presence of some managing intelligence. An intelligence which cannot be found.
As I've come to expect from Slonczewski, there are a lot of fascinating (and horrifying) ideas to be mulled in this book. The way we discount the intelligence of others when it doesn't look like ours. The way our strongest principles can be quickly cast aside in the face of economic "necessity." How financing the destructive whims of one very rich man seems to always take precedence over the suffering and death of millions of the poor. There are also some interesting thoughts about various obsessions over purity within religious orders.
I really enjoyed this book. Not quite as spot-on perfect as Door Into Ocean, but more tightly edited than Daughter of Elysium. Its slowly gathering momentum made it very difficult to put down in the second half! Highly recommended.
Idealistic Brother Rod and the Spirit Brethren sponsor an orphaned children's colony on the harsh and inhospitable alien planet Prokaryon. But the entire planet's ecosystem is too structured too controlled, to be natural. So when Proteus Unlimited, a greedy intersteller corporation, decides to strip mine and then terraform the planet, the search for the intelligences behind the environment becomes a race against time. And what will happen to the orphans if the surface of the planet is boiled off?