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by Wil McCarthy
In the early twenty-second century, nanotech gone wild has more or less eaten the Earth and the entire inner Solar System. The surviving humans fled to the asteroid belt and the moons of Jupiter, where they fight a constant battle against spores, known as mycora, from the inner system. Mankind is close to extinction, and not very happy about it.
The inhabitants of the moons of Jupiter call themselves the Immunity. When it's discovered that humans are actually engineering some of the lethal spores to overcome the countermeasures, the Immunity prepares a mission back into the deadly Mycosystem to discover how the mycora are evolving, and what has become of the Earth.
The Immunity is an interesting, if dour, society, entirely preoccupied with staying alive and fighting the spores. Their caverns are powered by the ladderdown reactor, which allows them to convert elements into others lower down on the periodic table. This results in an abundance of metals with low atomic numbers; gold is used to pave the streets and weight low-gravity shoes. Along with the low population, this has resulted in an economy where the most valuable commodities are uranium and manpower.
John Strasheim is a shoemaker by trade and an amateur journalist by preference in a society that can't spare the manpower for professional journalism. He's awarded the uncomfortable honor of serving as mission correspondent on the voyage, which he's well aware is the next best thing to a suicide mission. McCarthy occasionally gets a bit overly cute with Strasheim's multimedia narrative, describing the camera shots, graphics, and technical detail that are supposed to accompany the text we're reading. A little of that sort of thing goes a long way.
Bloom is excellent hard science fiction on a grand scale, full of great big ideas, great big disasters, interesting societies, and good old-fashioned paranoia. There's always something fascinating or horrifying around the next page. Highly recommended, particularly to fans of Roger MacBride Allen and Greg Bear's Blood Music.
-- Christina Schulman.
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