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Linda Nagata. Mythic Island, $18 trade paper (424p) ISBN 978-1-937197-26-1

This ambling fourth in Nebula-winner Nagata’s Nanotech Succession universe, appearing more than 20 years after the original trilogy’s publication, pairs unique biotechnological starships with a humanistic philosophy, but fails to see the forest for the trees. The humans of the Deception Well solar system are sure they are the last outpost of the species, having managed to hide from the genocidal Chenzeme for centuries. Then Urban, a centuries-old survivor of the last expedition outward, returns aboard the captured Chenzeme courser Dragon. A crew of explorers uploads to the biomechanical warship and begins traversing a galaxy of dead worlds, heading toward Earth. But the voyage derails when Dragon is infected by a mysterious being, leading to a war for command. Nagata’s clean style illuminates an abundance of technical details, but that meticulousness slows plot developments to a crawl as they fizzle into irrelevant explanation, crew theorizing, or arguments. This in-depth tour of a far-future cosmos will appeal to setting-oriented hard SF readers, but leave action-lovers unsatisfied. Agent: Howard Morhaim, Howard Morhaim Literary. (Apr.)