- The Spiders, a non-human race that lives on a planet orbiting the On-Off star. When the star is "off" the Spiders hibernate for over a century (I think) and when the star comes back on (rather beautifully), they must rebuild their civilization. The Spiders who have multiple eyes and legs and full body hair are the most engaging characters by far in the book. They're idiosyncratic, inventors, with senses of humor. When the human characters are on stage I keep asking, like David Bowie did, Where are the Spiders?
- The Focused. These are people whom the Emergents deliberately infect with a neural toxin that makes them essentially autistic. They think only about their current task, talk about nothing else, neglect their hygiene and personal lives utterly. They're the perfect high-tech employees. The fact that they usually receive the infection in grad school requires no further discussion.
- Systems. Specifically, what does one do with the systems of a society it has conquered? How does the conquerer adapt and use the techologies of its enemy? What's the difference between adoption and cooption? How can they trust the tools?
I will finish, I will, right after Pale Fire, which seems like it's going to be the best book ever written.