The Vast curtain opens with four crew members on the vessel Null Boundary making their centuries-long journey towards the star system of Alpha Cygni. More refugees from a broken civilization than explorers, they seek the Chenzeme, murderers of the human race, whose 30-million-year-old warships prowl the near and far reaches of space, destroying all they encounter.
Linda Nagata is remarkably adept at introducing new concepts without disturbing the flow of the narrative. Vast molds human figures out of a clay of genetic, nano, and virtual technology, allowing their humanity to take primacy: "It came without warning, making no sound. Lot first sensed its presence as a flash of motion in the central tunnel. He looked around, to see a flood spiraling down on him, white water sluicing through an invisible pipe, a snake made of water. It swept into the chamber; it coiled around him, an arm's length away. The coils of the snake melted together, and he was encased in a glistening shell. Charismata of exhilaration rained against his sensory tears, a strange foreign sense of greeting. Tendrils reached out to him from the shell's shimmering white surface, a thousand slender white tendrils brushing him. Faint touches. Where they contacted his skin suit they retracted, but where they touched his bruised face they stayed. Familiarity flooded him, a warm sense of union that eased the black pressure of the cult [virus] forever burning under his skin. A voice whispered in his ear, produced by a trembling membrane on the end of a tendril. 'You know us?'"
Make sure you're in a comfortable position when you start reading: Linda Nagata is light years ahead of her contemporaries in writing heart-racing, hard-science SF. Once this story sinks its teeth into you, you won't hear the phone ringing or care that it's way past bedtime until the last page is turned. --Jhana Bach [via]