Good SF ultimate goal must always be about the human condition. Literally. Always. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein arguably kick started the genre - a novel by a sex-positive teenage feminist in a corset, which tackled the question of what it means to be human, and how we connect with one another, and whether an individual can develop empathy or a moral compass in isolation, without family or society. Sf, as the genre of big ideas, and the genre that actively tackles universal questions of self, of society, of philosophy and religion and the nature of reality (yes, all of those…). It's who we are now, as well as how we might find ourselves living in the future - and that's always, always been the case. It's Margaret Atwood and Iain Banks and Arthur C Clarke and George Orwell and Octavia Butler and Robert A. Heinlein and Kurt Vonnegut and - well, all the damn classics. Hell, even “Star Trek”, cheesiest of pop culture staples, was absolutely tackling questions of civil rights and social justice on a weekly basis, under the pointy ears and sparkly moon rocks. It's always been about the characters, whether framed by technological innovation or political or geographical changes. Unfortunately the human condition does not inhabit this work by Reynolds. Reynolds is still confusing mass-market space-opera with SF. SF has always been about humanity dealing with hypothetical situations: you only have to look at the works of writers like Philip K. Dick or the above-mentioned Kurt Vonnegut to see that they are writing solely about the human condition. That’s what makes SF appealing to me. Reynolds sometimes is able to break the mold. No this time. All the characters are stereotypical in the extreme. Reynolds should think about way the Ferengi alone are depicted in Star Trek, e.g., the barkeep's put-upon brother who plots against said brother, and who eventually finds his own path, the mother who repudiates convention by her choice of clothing (wearing some) and by doing a "male's work" in finance, and the nephew who rejects Ferengi hyper-capitalism and joins Starfleet. We sense something profound wanting to come to the fore. The only I thing I felt when reading Reynolds was constipation. I know Reynolds is able to write much better than this, namely about relationships, reaction to change, questioning morals, and considering alternatives in a SF context. It's just a shame that Reynolds sometimes outputs crap like this.
SF = Speculative Fiction.