Linda Nagata
Deception Well (1997)
Reviewed: 2003-08-08

Jupiter Apolinario is a prophet. His vision: to find salvation by joining the Communion. He has led his followers through the dangerous space of the Chenzeme Intersection, where the ancient killing machines of a long-disappeared species still roam. Now they have arrived at their destination, the world of Deception Well. The road to the Communion leads down a space elevator, through the city of Silk, to the surface of the planet. To the Silkens, Deception Well is a deadly world, consuming all who venture down. The attempt of Jupiter's troops to force passage through Silk leads to disaster.

The novel is set in the same universe as The Bohr Maker, but several thousand years in the future. The local part of the galaxy is a strange place. The protagonists are of human stock, their unageing, much enhanced bodies teeming with molecular machines. Some have become sculpted entities, their minds now providing the souls of interstellar vessels. Humanity's descendants have spread through part of the galaxy, some finding bliss in the Dyson swarms of the Hallowed Vasties, others suffering genocidal horrors at the hand of autonomous weapons left over from the Chenzeme's war millions of years ago, murderous devices from fossil plagues to moon-sized planet busters. Effortlessly, Nagata evokes a mythical atmosphere.

A decade has passed in Silk since the ill-fated invasion by Jupiter's followers. The survivers live in a ghetto, segregated from the juvenile ados and the real citizens, those more than a hundred years of age. Lot is Jupiter's son and has inherited some peculiar body modifications and corresponding abilities from his father. Afraid of his potential as a cult leader, the Silken authorities have kept him under close guard. But now there is the prospect of change in the city. Lot must confront his heritage and sets out to investigate the actual fate of his father and to solve the secret of the Communion and Deception Well.

As you would expect from Nagata, there are some nanotech wonders, but they aren't the focus of the story. The novel is a tale of personal fates, old wars, and mysterious entities. In particular the story of Jupiter and Lot feels original.

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