This is the sort of book where it was enjoyable as I was reading it, but I have a feeling that 6 months from now I'll have very few specific memories of it - it was a pretty straightforward thriller; didn't really leave any deep and indelible marks on my consciousness.
A team of scientists is illegally working on a banned project - artifically engineered, diatom-like lifeforms that form colonies, seem to exhibit intelligence, and can be used as a symbiotic neural implant. When one of the scientists drops dead, an investigation reveals the illegal activity.
The scientists, who have 'infected' themselves with these "LOVs," seem to be unnaturally attached to them - but is the appeal the enhanced abilities that the LOVs give them, or is an alien intelligence affecting their minds, seeking to protect itself?
Only one of the scientists, Virgil, escapes the biological ethics committee, and escapes to a Vietnamese jungle, where he meets up with a down-on-her-luck journalist who gets involved, along with a rich businessman and his collection of street kids, who, with the help of a computer AI, he can form into a tribe/cult, as a sociological experiment.
Together, this assortment of people withstand an embargo from the outside world, who regard the LOVs as a biohazard. Are they? Or are they the future of humanity?
The result is a sort of cross between cyberpunk and alien-invasion tale.
Unfortunately, the book doesn't resolve a lot of the issues it brings up.
Nagata seems to want to compare the bio-enhancements of the LOVs with the technological "farsights" (sorta like a PDA, in sunglasses, with an AI assistant on the desktop) - but there's no real discussion of it, except to show that computer AI's can get out of hand too.
The question of whether the LOVs actually make their human symbionts smarter is never answered. The infected characters certainly don't act particularly intelligent.
Are the LOVs self-aware? Do they have an agenda?
What was businessman Nguyen's motive in giving the street kids farsights and hooking them into a network?
What did happen to the sick kids with LOVs who were airlifted out of the jungle?
What is the agenda of the AI known as 'Mother Tiger'?
What will happen next?
It's all a big and rather unsatisfying setup for a sequel... which, as of yet, doesn't seem to exist.
Don't have time to read it now, but it sounds very exciting!
Sci-fi thriller with nano-tech & cyber-punk elements.