Author: Alastair Reynolds
Genre: Science Fiction/Mystery
Ah, the wonders of nanotechnology! In the future, we'll be able to create super geniuses, spark Star Wars-esque civil wars, study worms, and kill people by looking at them. Alice covered the last one in a Dilbert strip, but that's besides the point.
This is the story of people called Conjoiners. They have a bunch of nanobots swimming around in their head. This gives them a sort of hive mind, except not at soulless as that usually turns out. There are three of them in this story: Nevil Clavain, Galiana, and Felka. Clavain is the hero, Mr. I-look-smart-because-i-uncover-the-plot. Galiana is the cohort, sidekick, smarter person. Felka defies definition. Felka is mentally disabled somehow, more like a living robot. Wierd.
Its a mystery, as the "Genre" line says. Our heroes are on Diadem, an alien planet. The only known life on the planet are these worms. They tunnel around in the ice; Diadem is at the beginning of a centuries-long ice age. They find an American base. Everyone is dead. Nobody is sure why, and the nearest butler is light-years away. Not to mention the most puzzling clue: A guy who fell down a crevice, had his helmet come off, and suffocated. Nobody dies instantly on Diadem; The air sustained him long enough to scratch I V F onto the wall. They also find some guy who pumped himself full of antifreeze and hid a locker, so to speak. Amazingly, they can revive him (with a good dose of nanobots to the brain).
That's the synopsis. Now we can get to the real meat of the story. Emergence.
See, theres this wacky idea about emergence in this book. The complex tunnels of slow-moving worms are actually a really big, slow, simple brain. On the colossal scale of the glacier, it's in fact neither big or slow. While the centuries slip away, a complex, sentient brain is emerging. Are there other worm brains out there? Are we a fungus on an undeveloped worm-brain? Are we anywhere near worm-brain poker night?
This is all left up to you to decide, even if you want to just say "FSSHHS, YEAH RIGHT" The duel of the hardly-titans at the end wraps up the real story nicely, and the plot has enough twists to keep anyone with a measurable attention span interested.
Source: 19th Annual "Year's Best Science Fiction"