Blood Music by Greg Bear
This one is a reread, following through on my first take several years ago. Story of a scientist that develops renegade living nanotechnology, and how it transforms the world. This book stood up quite favorably on a second reading, where previously I was most interested in the more conventional first half, this time I liked the way the longer-term process played out. It is strongly interesting as a novel about the singularity, transhumanism and a radically alien form of life than doesn't use any of these terms. The nooctye civilization moves in the span of a few weeks and a couple hundred pages to an interesting science innovation, than a weird mutation, than a renegade viral menace, and then an in depth civilization more compassionate, numerous and advanced than humanity. The story is constantly in motion, continually showing the pace of change for the new civilization and the way they transform the world around them, till by the end the whole of the universe is being reworked. The book benefits from it's ultimately optimistic nature, the way the transformation is shown to be extremely disorienting and incomprehensible but ultimately benevolent in character.
In support of the story the characterization is decent and there are a number of poignant personal moments. The larger story heavily invests in the main concept beyond character, however, and it succeeds due to tight pace and overall strength of execution. A reminder that Greg Bear could really write, back in the day, and that themes of radical change to the human condition were in some ways better served before it was linked to self-conccious buzzwords of the genre.
Similar to and better than: Accelerando by Charles Stross
Similar to and worse than: Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge