I've read and enjoyed Greg Bear since the 90s, with Blood Music being my favorite, and Hull Zero Three is a worthy addition to his titles. I'm highly impressed at his ability to reinvent himself and explore new territory as a stylist and as a story teller. And boy, does this one go into new territory. There are some vague hints of a SciFi film called Pandorum in this book, perhaps even Sphere in an even more vague connection, but for the most part I found this unique as a story and in its telling. A nameless character, Teacher, wakes up from a dream of endless joy and interstellar opportunity to find himself freezing and naked and near death in a horrific ship that appears programmed to kill him. It is a bleak, nasty place, The Ship, but Bear is so gifted at describing this claustrophobic zero-gravity death maze, I found myself imagining myself in the place often before going to sleep, trying to unravel the mysteries of the ship's purpose and the reasons some characters lived, others died, and still others existed at all in this hostile inorganic environment.
The book lingered with me largely because of the way it was written, which was simple and lean with zero exposition. You uncover the mystery of Teacher's and his fellow nameless survivors' identities as their memories emerge and as the action unfolds, often with the same shock and horror felt by them. The psychological aspects of the book have some Philip K. Dick in them, but this is all Bear. The emotional impact of this style of writing he chose is so suitable for the characters plight, and it is so visceral for the reader, but it's not for everyone. It requires some effort on the reader's part to balance the narrator's incomplete memory and understanding of his surroundings against what he is seeing. Imagine shoving a webcam through zero G's into an alien environment of battle, creation, and destruction, and then trying to untangle what's going on purely from what you see. That's sort of the reading experience here, and it's rewarding. So is the unravelling of characters' identities; the secret to their existence is profound and disquieting, but ultimately hopeful. Hard SciFi is generally not my thing, but Bear is a master, and this is a worthy read for anyone with even a hint of interest in space opera/survival horror.