Well, I can't fault Greg Bear for his imagination. He clearly has tons of ideas, many of which are wild and intriguing. His mistake was cramming them all into one novel, producing a hopelessly cluttered work in which so many threads are competing for attention that none of them is allowed any real development or substance. Early on, the book drops hints about the far-out ideas it contains, but devotes way too much attention to Cold-War squabbling which is boring and mundane in comparison, and hopelessly dated in retrospect. When it finally gets into the far-future stuff, the culture and technology are exotic to the point of caricature, more silly than awe-inspiring. It feels a bit like "Gulliver's Travels," but without a trace of Swift's satirical purpose. In fact, it's hard to see any real purpose underlying this story, other than to let Greg Bear unload his wild speculations. I read this book because I was interested in the physical concept of the Way and the technology of sculpting with spacetime; but this, like every other aspect of the story, is never explored with the detail it deserves. The characters have the same problem as the concepts: there are simply too many of them, and none is really given depth.