This book does a lot of interesting things very poorly. I appreciate the diversity of the cast, but I'd appreciate it more if that diversity didn't feel pasted on. The main character has a chronic pain disorder, but the symptoms disappear and reappear whenever it's convenient to the plot, allowing her to be an action hero as needed. At one point she breaks her ribs; then she falls in love, and this is apparently curative, because the injury is never mentioned again and certainly doesn't inhibit that love's enthusiastic consummation.
The overall worldbuilding was intriguing, and I would have loved to hear more about Transliminal's overall effect on the politics and economy of the protagonist's universe or the role of the spirit guides. Unfortunately, we never really get a coherent view of any of the institutional players' abilities or goals. Meanwhile, the protagonist spends a lot of time holding a planet-sized idiot ball to keep things moving briskly.
Particular nitpicky points of frustration for me include the protagonists' faith in Nova's "evidence" of their innocence despite every previous reference to the governing systems of their galaxy being extremely corrupt and more interested in maintaining the status quo of the rich and powerful than in justice. So they're innocent. Okay. Why do they think anyone in power will believe them, much less care
, given Transliminal's greater resources and the essential role it plays in the galactic economy? It's bizarrely naive from a group of people otherwise bitter and jaded about systemic injustice.
Also, when Slip is trying to sell Alana on polyamory, she uses that old simile comparing having multiple partners to having multiple kids: no one thinks you love one kid less or are going to leave them because you have a second, so why not think of partners the same way? It's a useful simile. I've used it before. Except, in Alana's case, a substantial portion of her characterization is devoted to her constant feeling of inadequacy compared to her sister. She is exactly the wrong person to be comforted by this comparison . . . and instead she accepts it instantly. It was a major characterization fail for me.
I also have serious issues with the way Nova's weight and eating habits were handled. We are told she is anorexic and trying to starve herself to death, and that this a problem. Then it turns out that by starving herself to death, she actually can
ascend and become one with the universe, and the protagonist accepts that this is the right path for Nova to take. The pro-ana implications here, however unintentional, are fairly unfortunate.