This is book two of the Orthogonal series.
Okay, this book continues the Orthogonal series, following the Clockwork Rocket. The premise of the last book was that the world the heroine, Yalda, lived in was threatened by emmient destruction by hurtling stars invading their solar system, so they launched a mountain top to relativistic speeds so that time will slow for the occupants of the mountain and they will have time for intellectual pursuits. The expectation is that the people in said mountain will advance beyond the linear years of the homeworld, and return with technology needed to save it.
Great. With you there. This book continues where we are three generations into the flight. While Egan delightfully continues with the exploration of advancements in physics, mirroring much of our discovery of physics in the twentieth century, Egan also explores some of the cultural issues an isolated society with restricted resources might encounter.
And there is where I become emotionally invested in the book.
The characters of the book are shapeshifting amoeba-like sentient beings whose natural form is six limbs and four eyes. They give birth by the mother splitting into four parts, two girls and two boys, one of each of which are bonded into pairs that continue the cycle.
Okay, fine. Except that if a woman of this species doesn't want the cycle to continue, if she wants to delay fission, she has two options: take a drug holden, or starve herself. And here is where the commentary starts. That the male of the species could starve himself and not trigger the fission is considered and discarded. That a woman of the species has a right to choose not to split (and hence immediately die) isn't allowed, she is only borrowing the flesh of her mother to give to her daughter.
You might be able to see where this would catch my attention just a bit.
I liked this book better than the first of the series. I liked the characters better, was more outraged at the injustice that happened in the book, and was overall more invested in this book. I'll read the third book to see how the story ends. I know this series is recommended by a lot of science fiction readers, but the science is a turn-off for some. One can skip the science parts and still enjoy the book, if that matters.