So, the cover has absolutely nothing to do with the book, what the hell sci-fi cover? I mean, I know that's kind of a thing... but why is that a thing? Is it sort of like freaking the mundanes?*
Anyway, this book jumps around at first to set up the development of humans over, um, a long period of time. Eventually we get to The Plot-ish of the book where there appear to be several AI-beings who are capable of sending fractions of themselves out into space to be their own semi-separate AI-beings. The three beings we're introduced to (before they're fractured further) are Wayfarer, Alpha, and Gaia. Alpha is more of an amorphous AI...alpha. Wayfarer is a fragment of Alpha designed to go check out what Gaia is up to. Gaia is composed of all the human consciousness of people who wanted to stay tied with the earth, rather than going to Alpha or Wayfarer to view the stars. Gaia acts as steward of the earth, encompassing a sort of virtual reality of lives, and has also secretly repopulated the planet with Real Humans.
So Gaia has set itself up as this sort of mechanical God, the destruction of Earth by crashing into the sun is some millions of years imminent and Alpha wants to know if it's worth saving the Earth/humanity. Gaia is against this course of action, if only because it feels that the humans should be responsible for their own preservation.
I wonder, how many of us would be interested in setting up something like Gaia? The AI had already stopped several wars on Earth and directed the development of the humans she planted towards more harmonious, less warmongering pursuits. Given recent political events in the United States, we might actually need some sort of nanny-bot to take care of us as a species. Congress is certainly acting like a bunch of children. I've seen 12-year-olds better at bargaining than what went on during the budget fiasco. And by the way, refusing to bargain is a dick move. I don't care which party it comes from, the fact that it happened to be the Republicans is mostly irrelevant, I'd be just as ashamed if the Democrats decided to put the good of the country at risk just to make a political point. Regardless of whether or not they are your party, they are still your government (unless you aren't an American, in which case disregard that point).
If it were up to me, I would say go ahead and install the AI. Maybe it wouldn't allow me to have a car anymore, because ultimately that would be bad for the environment and future generations. But it would probably also make other adjustments to distribute the wealth, food, water, medicine, etc. that we dumbass humans aren't, so that I don't have to work 40+ hours to afford those things. That would mean I could spend my spare time gardening, or I would be able to spend that hour on the high speed rail and then a bus to get to work. Even if Gaia eventually threw us into the sun, maybe that would be worth it to have several million years worth of high quality life for our species. Right now it just seems like we're stuck with hitting each other with ever-bigger and more complicated sticks and making sure our stockpile of bananas is bigger and better than anyone else's.
I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords.
If you're confused by Kirkus's review, that's about right.
LibsNote: Library Copy.
*Back when I was into SCA, this is what we called going into public places in medieval garb.