This pays homage to previous generations of writers, like Heinlein and the kind of "Gung Ho" Science Fiction era of Flash Gordon. Our hero - RJ Stone - is brought up on this kind of story and is one of those mythical explorers who just want to see what's "out there".
This book is given extra colour, by that fact of placing Stone many thousands of years into his future and a technology beyond his or our, wildest dreams. The cast of characters involves every type of being you could imagine - although all are evolved from the basic forms of life we know today.
What still drives the future society and the plot of this book, is the search for anything extra-terrestrial in origin. As, despite the vast resources available and time allowed, nothing has been discovered that didn't originate on our own Earth. Maybe the author is describing the actual effort required, given the infinite size of the Universe or maybe he is leaving this avenue open for future books?
Apart from the references to previous Sci Fi authors and the "in-jokes", we do get a fair amount of discussion of the "big ideas" that obsess mankind - such as the nature of existence. If our consciousness is uploaded, do we actually die - are we the same person?
There are many possibilities for cheating death in the future described here - but Roberson explores how they may all be seen as false hopes. Even an artficial intelligence like Xerxes, clings to this existence as the only certainty - despite knowing that his experiences will continue after he updates his progenitors. Similarly, no matter how many duplicates Jida makes - the loss of an individual is no less keenly felt.
The other serious idea explored is how societies stagnate and they can easily devolve into self-absorbtion and in-fighting. The Entelechy needs the fresh blood of Stone to shake them up and give them purpose. They need to recover a sense of urgency or will do nothing.
Overall though - this book is fun - it is a romp through a Sci Fi writers' playground of impossible things and impossible characters. Stone sees humour in it all and enjoys his situation - he can cut through the endless amounts of information and make things happen. There is a lot of science thrown in, but like its main hero, the reader doesn't need to understand any of this to follow the plot. There is action, excitement and it all plunges to a thrilling end, which leaves you satisfied and wanting more. No doubt there will be further adventures and if they are as enjoyable as this, I look forward to reading them.