This is a direct sequel to Very Bad Deaths, but it's a separate story and the characters are explained, so it should stand on its own.
This book has characters that succeed, at least to some degree, in engaging my interest, and a political message that I agree with. But the tolerable adventure story plot through the first two thirds or so of the book gets turned on its head in a way that's not really fair to the reader, and the rest of the book goes in a tinfoil hat direction. Page by page, it's not bad, but as a whole, it's very weak; I expect better of Robinson.
5 out of 10.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- SPOILERS ****
Slim, our main viewpoint character, living on a small island paradise off Vancouver Island, has just managed to convince his estranged son Jesse to visit him. Slim's wife died of cancer when Jesse was a rebellious teenager and Jesse hasn't forgiven him. Slim is just trying to break the ice when Nika shows up with the news that she's being tailed by a CIA type. Slim manages to get to Zandor's home on the island next door, despite the motor falling off the Zodiac he's driving, a storm breaking out, and his right lung collapsing. Zandor is the telepath who accidentally discovered the monster in the previous book. Unfortunately, in his haste to depart, Slim left the old computer, the one not connected to the net, with his diary of the events in the previous book plugged in. Jesse and Nika get captured by the rogue CIA agent, who has multiple names, but Slim manages to hike back to his own house despite the collapsed lung and get the drop on the bad guy. The bad guy lets him get away with it, because he's gotten far enough in his interrogation of his prisoners to decide that they're ethical. He's been trying for 40 years to track down Zandor, after he inadvertently got Zandor's girlfriend killed at a secret ESP investigation site 40 years ago. He's a good guy at heart, and he's convinced that having a telepath on his side is the only way he can bring down the shadow conspiracy of super rich demons who are behind everything that's wrong with America, especially the Bush administration. He convinces the heroes to arrange a meeting. Zandor vouches for his bona fides, but has to reveal that he's a dud as a secret weapon. The bad guys have telepaths too, and know how to protect themselves from telepaths. But Zandor has been tracking the conspiracy through the 'net and may have a few leads, and Jesse is actually secretly using his position in a big PR firm to work for good. Slim and Jesse end up reconciled and they all go their separate ways doing their best to try to nudge America and humanity back onto a rational course and trying to hope it will work.