Well, this has to be the most unusual book I've read in the last couple of years. For context, I've read 113 books since April 2009 (when I started buying on Kindle, so this is the total Amazon gives me). I probably haven't read more than 5 non-SciFi books (and 1 non-Kindle book) in that time; so I've read a reasonable amount of SciFi, mostly from the authors you'd see as mainstream - Neal Stephenson, Richard Morgan, Charles Stross, Peter Hamilton, Ian Banks, Robert Charles Wilson, etc.
Stephen Palmer is at a Whole Nutha' Level. One way to describe it: "Consider natural & technological evolution running its course for a couple of million years. Discuss."
Urbis Morpheos is set in an indeterminate, but likely VERY future time, and an indeterminate place that is likely Earth, but it's never said. Palmer simply immerses you in the language, story, place, and time, and doesn't try to explain things you don't know about. Definitely non-expository. You're left to figure things out over the course of the book from the context of their use. While this technique isn't unique, it's definitely atypical.
But what really sets it apart is that the culture, environment, and place that this book creates is SO unlike anything I've read that it bends my mind. Serious drugs - or mushrooms - were used in the fabrication of this place.
By comparison, other SciFi books now seem to be a LOT like our human experience today, merely placed into a new context. Whether that context be space, robots, space-faring robots, human space or time travel, non-human similarly, etc., the emotions, actions, and stories of characters in other books seem to be comparatively rooted in & derived from today's human experience.
Not so with Urbis Morpheos. It's WAY different. Wonderfully way different. For at least a good chunk of the book, you'll be challenged to build a mental structure to hold all the things you're reading; and know how what you're reading could possibly relate to where the book is going. Assuming it's going somewhere.
And Palmer does NOT spoon feed you. That would be under-challenging the reader. Here, content occasionally emerges in a hallucinogenic fusillade that you assume will eventually mean something.
Your ability to understand it may be directly related to the amount of mushrooms you're willing to do while reading it. This isn't one of those books you're going to read and feel you grokked the whole thing in one read. To "get" this book would take re-reading, study, and work.
But don't do that. Read it, and let the ideas, story, and everything drown you. Assume that it might, or might not, eventually make sense, but that you'll enjoy it anyway. Then be prepared to sit & let your vibrating brain recover before moving on. And maybe someday, you'll come back and read it again, and maybe get it a bit more. Maybe.
Thanks, Stephen. This was a mind-exploder. My next read will be another of your books. I hope it is of this caliber.