I actually thought that this book is better than his two later books "A Fire Upon the Deep", and "A Darkness in the Sky". I was hooked when I first read "A Darkness in the Sky".
This book is very good SF. There is a lot of imaginative science/technological elements in here. I think some of these are even visionary, for example, Vernor talks about honing smart bullets, which are only recently being developed, and direct human/computer interfaces that increases one's conciousness and intelligence exponentially, which is a possible furture scenario in today's IT world - primitive precursors that follow one eyes' movements or electromagnetic brain waves already exist. Consider that he thought of all these in 1984, when most people havent even heard of the PC!
Like his later books, there is heavy duty scheming between his characters. His characters play each other like a chess game, and this can be enjoyable to watch. This book is actually two stories, the second story is the sequel to the first, and builds on the same world. Recommended!