I read a great novel last year and would like to read it again and recommend it to others but I can't remember much about it's details, including title or author. Here is what I remember:
- written by a female author; guessing after 1980 (too much nanotech detail for earlier)
- about a small crew traveling on a spaceship over the space of hundreds, maybe thousands of years
- crew's consciousness can be duplicated, edited, and moved between the ship or bodies
- ship can make anything, given enough time, raw material and proper instruction, using nanobots of some kind
- ancient, unmanned alien warships attack
- very heavy on genetics, nanotechnology, and deep-space/out-of-body/duplicated-consciousness/alien-contact psychology
- avoid destruction from alien by growing similar 'skin' on own ship, releasing fake communication spores, etc.
- ship and crew come in contact with group of people (humans, if I remember correctly) who are having trouble with a local life form that appears to be some type of worm (book description reminded me of sea cucumbers, or, at least the bigger ones, the 'worm' thing that eats Link in all of the Zelda games) that, after coming in contact with a person, connects them and makes them part of a singular consciousness. Those that are 'transformed' exclaim that it's the most wonderful thing that has happened to them, but there is resistance to total acceptance.
- the crew boards one of the alien warships, and one of a member's copied consciousness binds with it (as they would their own ship), and leaves.
- they and their ship are saturated in some nanobots engineered to defend against harmful agents. They were designed ages ago on some human colony, and are the only thing that keeps the alien 'skin' they grow to camouflage themselves from devouring the whole ship
- the 'skin' is a living colony of alien cells; one member spends hundreds of years with dozens of copies of himself developing a communication bridge and protocol with them, later used to send the communication/infiltration spores to other alien ships...
You wouldn't believe the amount of Googling, list searching and forum hampering I've gone through.