This was the final book in my minor-quest to read all of the 2011 Hugo best novel nominees. Given that it’s #14 in a series I haven’t read, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it: I almost didn’t read it at all. Thankfully, a sense of completion-ism won out, and I decided to give it a shot.
It’s "thankfully", because, even being completely unfamiliar with the universe and the characters, it was a great read.
Obviously, I don’t know how it compares to the other books in the series; but as a stand-alone work, it’s great. It’s easy to read, while still having good writing (however you define good writing: I’m personally a fan of varied sentence structures and random dependent clauses). It’s a fun adventure story. There’s a bit of mystery that is fun to resolve along with the protagonists (of course, Miles figured it out before I did. I guess that’s why he’s the hero…).
And it features a real, live sphinx. What more could you ask for?
Its flaws, if you want to call it that, is that it wouldn’t be a good introduction to the genre for someone whose head isn’t already filled with spaceships and cloning chambers. But if your bookshelf already overflows with Card, Bear, or Scalzi, then it should fit right in. Of course, considering how acclaimed this series is, if your bookshelf features those authors, there’s a good chance this or its sister-novels are already on it.
Still, while it’s definitely a good book, it’s not a great one. This isn’t a fault: if everything were "great", we’d simply have to reset our expectations. And, I think, as the genre has matured over the years, my expectations have been reset. So, within that context, it’s a solid SF adventure work that I’m happy to have read.
I’ll add the rest of the series to my to-read stack and look forward to getting to them.