I expected to enjoy this book. It had glowing dust-jacket blurbs by first-rate authors, excellent cover art, and an interesting premise. Plus, I'm a huge fan of hard SF, and I own almost everything that Vernor Vinge, Charles Stross and Greg Egan have ever written. But this book, unfortunately, was a total disaster.
Metzger's space opera is dragged down by poor craftsmanship. His choice of terminology is often awkward; for example, he refers to heavily-modified cyborgs as "ultra-Tools" without the slightest sense of irony. His exotic alien technology comes across as so much Star Trek technobabble--there's a different superpower in every chapter, but without the redeeming campiness of E.E. Smith's Lensmen. And Metzger never gets enough mileage out of his admittedly clever ideas. He'll introduce something exotic enough to test any writer's skill, explore it sloppily and unoriginally for two pages, and then allow it to drop into the background.
Metzger's characters, though, deserve special opprobrium. First, there's just too darn many--the general, the hard-boiled cop with enhanced reflexes, the talking dinosaur, the software reincarnation of Bill Gates, the father and daughter with genetically-engineered nervous systems, and the "Post Point" transhuman who taps Zero Point energy. Even worse, though, is the failure of these characters to live up to the undemanding standards of space opera. Space opera, like any adventure story, works fine with archetypal characters, but Metzger can't even write a convincing hard-boiled cop. And when Metzger's most humane character wipes out North America with a solar flare, she agonizes for less than a paragraph before complimenting herself on her problem-solving skills.
Last night, with ten pages to go and the fate of the planet hanging in the balance, I put down Cusp and went to sleep.