I'm torn on how to review this book. I think it is wildly imaginative. For instance, the premise is great--a deep space explorer is woken from cryogenic suspension later than he expected. Sure, that notion has been used before in everything from Rip Van Winkle to Buck Rogers to Aliens. But what sets this book apart is the amount of time involved. Not tens or even hundreds of years, but thousands.
The irony here is that the protagonist (Captain RJ Stone) went out looking for alien life, but by the time he awakes, humans are the aliens. And I don't exaggerate when I say that. In the future this book describes (one 12,000 years hence) "human" is a nebulous term. There are human "beings" in mechanical bodies and in lab-grown biological (but not necessarily human in appearance) bodies. There are distributed intelligences (consciousness shared over more than one body), animals that have been "uplifted" to sentience, humans reconstructed from former memories...it has the makings of the cantina scene in Star Wars, except all the creatures can trace their origin to Earth. But even Earth has radically changed too.
Because the future is so very different from our own, "Further" spends many pages in description and exposition. Much of that is probably necessary, given the foreignness of the surroundings. However, it means that about two-thirds of the book is spent touring around and talking to creatures, and discovering still more human-based creatures. To the book's credit, I never felt like it was dragging. The new things were interesting enough to hold my attention. But if you're looking for Star Wars style action, you won't find it here until the end. And then it comes in a hurry.
** spoiler alert
The reason I have mixed feelings about the book stems more from the underlying themes. I have to admit, there were a couple times I almost put the book down. Don't get me wrong, I'm used to secular humanism being the law of the land in science fiction. Any person of faith has to be able to take a few digs if they're going to read it. But part of my consternation here is because I'm not sure what the author is trying to say. On the one hand, he has the main character slam creationism (calling it "antiscience") and religious thought overall, painting it as something that holds humanity back and ultimately dooms the United States. Yet on the other hand he seems to glorify a form of future Hinduism. (Perhaps because that belief-system lends itself most easily to the "anything is intelligent" future he has created?) Then, shock of all, the main villains--teased early on to be religious zealots--ultimately are evolutionists seeking to direct life toward a future Deity.
** end spoiler
It is all very strange. But maybe that's okay. Maybe the theme in such a novel should be open to wild interpretation. I was entertained, I applaud the speculation, but I leave a little puzzled.
(One side note, I think the title of this book is terrible. It is too generic and a bit of riddle. Even after reading the book it seems woefully lacking.)