Queen of Angels has been described as Greg Bear's most ambitious work, and ambitious it certainly is. But ambition does not necessarily equal success.
The book takes a murder-mystery type story - a famous and successful poet of the 21st century unexpectedly murders eight of his closest friends - a turns it into a musing on the nature of awareness and identity. The question is approached through various perspectives
- that of a policewoman who has opted for physical transformation through nanotech, costing her friends and family,
- a poet friend of the suspected murderer, a somewhat unhappy individual who has opted not to have the nanotech-enabled 'therapy' that is common in society
- a therapist who has lost his career due to political scandal
All these individuals try, in their own ways, to make sense of these murders and why they may have happened.
Interspersed with this story is the story of the gradual awakening to self-aware consciousness of an AI which is an interstellar probe, and its counterpart on earth. This story is really only thematically linked to the main plot.
Bear discussed many interesting issues here, however, my enjoyment of the book was greatly diminished by the writing, especially during the part having to do with the poet. Attempting an experimental poetic? type of language Bear eschews the use of commas parentheses inserting phrases words into sentences randomly a flow-of-consciousness perspective or just pretension you decide.
It does make it slow to read, because the reader has to sort out all the phrases, decide where the commas should have been, and then decide what meaning(s) the author was getting at.
I like commas. Of course, I had a professor once yell at me for my propensity toward using them too liberally, so this could be a personal issue! ;-)
Crime, Punishment, and Still More Punishment, July 2, 2002
Reviewer: Miles (Phoenix, AZ United States)
This is the best Greg Bear book I've read. It's not as accessible as BLOOD MUSIC (his other really good one), but in many ways it's more impressive. A reviewer's blurb on the cover of my paperback edition calls it "...possibly the most ambitious novel ever written..." which sounds like the most ridiculous hyperbole, but I wouldn't call it completely off the mark.
For some reason, the author wrote several sections in a deliberately obtuse fashion, which forced me to reread the first couple pages of many chapters. I haven't quite figured out the intent behind this literary "technique", but plowing through the difficult parts of this one actually pays off.
The novel's obsessive focus on the themes of crime and punishment (mostly punishment), looked at from the perspectives of different characters in different situations, impressed me much the same way Frederik Pohl's novel GATEWAY did (which dealt with the themes of survival and guilt). It really sticks with you after reading it.