The reader who is about to pick up "Queen of Angels" should understand one thing about Greg Bear: he writes hard sci-fi (sci-fi which is typically laden with "tech talk"), and he writes the hardest sci-fi probably in existence today. The effect of this can be bewildering to the neophyte, especially considering the variety of his narrators. One of them, while close, is not even human, and that can easily drive away the most committed of readers.
However, dear reader, may I suggest that you persist to the end? Bear writes the most satisfying conclusions in sc-fi today, and the ending of "Queen" is among these. The ending, though, is not the best part. Neither is Bear's vision of mid-21st Century Southern California, which can be vexing. What is most fascinating about this novel is the evolution of its characters, and the effects of their modern world upon them. Not even the advanced therapy taken on by Mary Choy, Bear's wunderkind gumshoe, can protect her from the slings and arrows embedded in the human psyche. In fact, the most human character in the novel is Richard Fettle, the vaguely Luddite disciple of Emmanuel Goldsmith, the one whose life is only indirectly touched by technology, and who consequently seems to be able to access his primal self best of all, and who therefore can best understand Goldsmith's motivations most readily.
What may intrigue the reader of this novel the most is the "character" AXIS, an artifical intelligence which directs a craft in the exploration of an Earth-like planet around Alpha Centauri, and which may have been constructed too well for its own good. One imagines while reading this what may become of a child who is sent on a similar mission, and the conclusion of insanity makes perfect sense. The contrast between AXIS' increasing skewed observations and portrayal of the overwhelming media coverage of the mission was especially fun for me to read.
In "Queen", Bear continues his pattern of forcing his reader in over their heads, and not insulting us by explaining everything, but, rather, allowing us to "swim" and form our own pictures of the action. This pattern can be, at best, off-putting, and, at worst, infuriating, but the result in "Queen" is, in my opinion, well worth the work. Bear understands that in sci-fi, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and thus he has endeared himself to me.