The enjoyment one gets from a Stross novel doesn’t just come from his fascinating characters and plot; it can also be found in his elaborate explanations of the elements that make up his universe. Stross’ second Freyaverse novel is easy to get lost in, with detailed depictions of everything from complex monetary systems to the structure of life on planets made mostly of gas. His world is not only absorbing, but also feels like a hauntingly realistic possibility for the future.
Krina Alzond-114, a metahuman, is earning her keep as a deckhand on a floating chapel’s passage to water-world Shin-Tethys, where her sibling Ana was last seen before she disappeared. But the voyage is interrupted when a group of pirates, led by the mysterious Count Rudi, takes over and captures Krina. When Rudi informs her that she holds half of a very rare and valuable apparatus, he brings her to Shin-Tethys, where she must aid in recovering the second half, held by her missing sister — all while evading a body-double stalker out for blood. (ACE, Jul., 336 pp., $25.95)