Sorry for providing such sketchy details, this was a book from the library which I read and then returned and many years later I recalled it and want to read it again.

I believe this book is from around 2000. Here are some elements I remember about the book.

  1. The main character is male but prefers to assume the woman’s role in society (with regard to work). The roles apparently were different.
  2. I think there was a plot element where most of mankind had been suddenly teleported to another star system (shades of A Choice of Gods by Simak).
  3. There is an AI in orbit (possibly dead?) that people think was God.
  4. To go visit the AI a spacesuit is being constructed, there is a passage in the book about the space helmet.
  5. I think there is an element about having a faster-than-light drive which came from another civilization but is used by the people in the book (traders).

Sorry for the minimal details, it has probably been twenty years since I read it.

  • 5
    The Gods Themselves is an Isaac Asimov title, not Simak. Maybe you're thinking of Simak's A Choice of Gods?
    – user14111
    Commented Dec 31, 2023 at 22:14
  • you are correct, I got the title wrong. I’ll have to go figure out what book I’m thinking of. :-)
    – Spiff
    Commented Jan 1 at 4:21
  • Yes, I had confused it with A Choice of Gods,
    – Spiff
    Commented Jan 1 at 13:36
  • This has many of the same story beats as Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Male protagonist that tries to assume female roles; humanity is in other star systems; there is a semi-dead AI on orbit that is worshiped as God; main plot is constructing spacesuit/spaceship to reach the AI; FTL is developed by another civilization and traded for). But the timeline does not match, and the main characters being jumping spiders would be a weird detail to forget Commented Jan 2 at 21:07
  • Thank you, Vitor Rangel. It indeed has numerous similarities. However, even ignoring the jumping spiders 2015 is way too recent.
    – Spiff
    Commented Jan 2 at 22:28

2 Answers 2


This is making me think of the "Engines of Light Trilogy" (starts with "Cosmonaut Keep" published in 2000) by Ken MacLeod.

It matches point 1 where one of the main non-earth characters is in a society where your gender is defined by your role and to be a "man" you must be a warrior (and they are not). Also matches 4, I think, where in that same society (which is technologically more primitive) they construct a space suit and a hot-air balloon I think.

An asteroid is discovered near Earth (or maybe appears there) which contains some kind of AI and designs for an FTL drive which is built and transports the first crew to a place in the galaxy/universe where there are interstellar human and non-human civilisations, and many of these asteroid based AIs who are indeed viewed as gods. This covers points 4 and 5 I think.

Point 2 doesn't quite match except that there is human civilisation away from Earth although I don't recall the details e.g. were they originally from Earth? Or was Earth populated from elsewhere and everyone has forgotten?

But 4.5 matches out of 5 seems quite good!

  • Thanks Valorum. I don't think this is the book I'm hunting for, but it is interesting how many stories seem to intersect across multiple themes.
    – Spiff
    Commented Jan 3 at 15:56
  • 1
    I believe the intelligences in the asteroids (it's been a while since I've read them) were in fact thousands (maybe millions? billions?) of tiny creatures and that the noise from their enemy (encountered in later books in the series) was deafening them.
    – user25730
    Commented Jan 4 at 5:17
  • @user25730 - yes I've also not read them for some time but I think you are correct.
    – AdamT
    Commented Jan 5 at 9:55

Is it possibly one of the books in David Zindell's Neverness universe? One of the main themes of the book is giant planet-sized AIs that are referred to as gods and worshipped as such. A dead AI-god in orbit is mentioned in the book The Broken God. FTL travel and traders are also featured in the series.

Into the icy maze of the city of Neverness, a wild boy stumbles, spear in hand, starving, frostbitten and grieving. Danlo the Wild, raised by far-off Alaloi neanderthal cave-dwellers, survived a plague that took all of his tribe. Now he must find who engineered the disease and how he can cure it. And what kind of man he will grow up into, as he enters the Order of Mystic Mathematicians and Other Seekers of the Ineffable Flame.

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The other elements are not familiar to me, but there are 4 books, a novella, and several stories set in the universe, and I've read only the first novel (Neverness) and am currently reading the second, so they could feature in one of the other books. The series began in 1988 and completed in 1998, so the timeframe is a match.

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