L. Neil Smith is famous -- or infamous, depending on your take of the subject -- for his heavy-handed political sermons, even to the point where the sermons seem entirely detached from the story he is trying to tell.
_Pallas_, fortunately, is mostly free of irrelevant libertarian proselytizing (Smith's politics are still evident, but they are worked into the story skillfully and in a way that makes sense), and it becomes wonderfully clear that when Smith just sets out to tell a story, he really does a pretty damn good job. This book does contain flaws, however, which keep it at 4 stars instead of 5 -- Smith, for one thing, is remarkably poor at painting his characters in shades of gray. He seems to make some gamely attempts to do so throughout the book, but for all that, his characters either fall solidly in the "good" or "evil" camps.
Related to this is another serious problem with this book (and Smith's writing in general, actually): his characters are simply not fleshed out very well, and it makes it hard to empathize with them. Smith's style of characterization is essentially to take some odd trait, attach the trait to a name, then pass it off for a character. This is why, in my opinion, his supporting characters especially come across as caricatures, which detracts somewhat from the story.
However, in spite of these problems (and others), I found myself liking _Pallas_ a great deal. Whatever his flaws in characerization, Smith is a remarkable wordsmith, and some of the concepts introduced in this book, regardless of their real-life feasibility, are fascinating. _Pallas_ is an enjoyable read with flaws that are easily overlooked while being carried along by Smith's skilled, and at times captivating, prose.