(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Metaplanetary describes a lushly technological society inhabiting all the planets and moons of the solar system and the Oort Cloud beyond one thousand years from now. Kilometer-thick cables connect the inner planets. Some citizens have dozens of physical and virtual bodies all alive at once, some have no physical manifestation at all, instead existing wholly within a highly evolved descendant of the World Wide Web, and the bodies of yet others are antimatter-powered spaceships. The abundant diversity and technology overwhelm attempts at democratic government. Controversy and its henchman, bigotry, beset over the very definition of a human being.

From the roiling social forces emerges a potential dictator, Ames. He plans not only to unify all humanity politically but in fact to absorb, literally, all individuality into his ego and become a new type of being. Settlers in the outer planets, who want to remain individuals and govern themselves, resist him. As the novel ends, full-scale civil war is beginning.

With masterful imaginative flare, Tony Daniel unfolds these epic developments through a host of human, cyberspace, and animal characters. So grand is the scale of action and so exotic the scientific underpinnings that Daniel has to insert faux essays to explain the future technology and history. These in themselves are often wonderfully written, especially the passages about quantum mechanics. Still, readers may find themselves confused by the extensive invented terminology for the first half of the book. That not withstanding, the careering action, including space battles, the bizarre social and religious practices, and the occasional waspish allusions to the twenty-first century are likely to carry readers to the end and leave them looking forward to a sequel.