One of the characters "self-identified as human" but is really - or should that be "also"? - an emergent property of an interplanetary network of cash registers. Another manifests herself - how or why she is female never becomes clear - as a kilometre-long feather than unpredictably appears in mid-space to flirt with a lonely researcher of uncertain descent. Appropriately enough, the storyline of one of the major characters leans heavily on her sessions of bad faith with a psychoanalyst. All of which contributes to one of the most intriguing and exciting dimensions of this book - Harrison's exploration of the exploded self, the myth of the individual. Never has post-structuralism been made so poetic, so real or so much fun.
There are also space battles, never fear. And for those who like things spelled out, you even get to find out what a shadow operator and a New Man is, and how exactly the unfortunate get infected by wandering code. For those who don't, too much happens too fast, and all at the same time, for you ever to have much chance of seeing it whole. You'll have to find your own way through, draw your own maps, be satisfied with your own unreliable memories and interpretations of the book. In our fun-for-all-the-family mass culture, it's a revivifying release from the spelt-out and dumbed-down, and the musical brilliance of the writing makes it all a pleasure.