After invasions and battles, panic and horror, after denial and the revelation of ultimate truths, after four volumes and 2,300 pages, it all comes down to this: To stem the tide of souls of the dead who have returned to possess the bodies of the living, Joshua Calvert must take his ship, the Lady Macbeth, on a mission beyond the farthest reaches of explored space. His goal is to find the artifact/entity the Tyrathcans call The Sleeping God in the hope that this legendary presence can offer some kind of help, or at least advice with the problem. Otherwise human civilization is perhaps doomed. Meanwhile on Ombey, an army of bitek soldiers stages a counter-invasion of possessed-controlled Mortonridge--a strange battle in which neither side is completely human--but the gains are little and each victory dear. The best of Adamist "gray" technology and Edenist green biotech, now used together in willing cooperation, still offer little hope. Physics cannot overcome metaphysics.
In the massive conclusion to his elaborate metaphysical trilogy, Hamilton (The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist) resolves the fate of humanity and its confrontation with the souls of its dead. In this volume, the Confederation's epic spiritual crisis reaches a climax: the tear in the boundary between reality and afterlife, a boundary that many souls cross to possess the bodies of the living and to use their energistic power, remains open. Petrified of being forced back into the beyond--a hell where all souls anguish in nothingness but can see the familiar universe just out of reach--the possessed withdraw entire planets from our universe to another. Two factions of the possessed, however, have no intention of leaving our universe: Al Capone's brutal, ever-expanding mafia organization and Quinn Dexter's cult of pain, which is trying to orchestrate a torturous apocalypse. Meanwhile, a Liberation Army attempts to forcefully remove individual possessors from their living victims, resulting in atrocities. GovCentral works on a weapon to extinguish a soul entirely from all existence, but is unwilling to commit itself to the kind of genocide the weapon would unleash. As a last hope, two starships are sent to hunt down a literal deus ex machina, another species's Sleeping God. Its existence is the only real hope that mankind has of surviving. Hamilton's work encompasses a broad sweep of philosophical and moralistic themes, yet he keeps a tight focus on his 100-plus "principal characters" and the highly fantastical universe they inhabit. His work requires slow, careful reading, but those who put in the extra effort will be paid back in full and then some. The depth and clarity of the future Hamilton envisions is as complex and involving as they come.