Title: The Risen Empire by Scott Westerfeld
Genre: sci-fi, epic
Plot summary: (from Amazon)
In the far future, human beings have colonized 80 worlds across space, and are ruled over by an immortal. The Emperor of this future realm has ruled for over 1600 years after discovering a way to raise the newly dead so that they may live and serve him forever.
The Empire has been at war for decades with an all-female race of humans called the Rix. These Rix are cyberneticly enhanced cultists who worship planetary A.I's. The Rix have taken it upon themselves to spread these A.I's to the worlds controlled by the Risen Empire, which would in-turn, change the Empires worlds into giant living minds.
Comments: One of the best science fiction books around, combining great ideas, great writing and an epic, twisting plot. It forces the reader to confront the ultimate question - what is life? Can a machine have true sentience? Can death really be overcome? Westerfeld's descriptions of the evolution and use of nanomaterials in this futuristic world is both highly imaginative and highly believable; a fascinating conception of the possibilities and dangers of new technology. Another aspect of this book that was interesting was the emphasis on how strengths could be weaknesses and vice-versa: the soldier hero wears prosthetic legs and a prosthetic arm due to enduring months of torture and imprisonment; the forward-thinking senator had to take regular doses of an 'apathy' drug to avoid descending into madness - yet these are not impediments to their love and ultimate triumph. Compelling reading.