Without doubt, this is one of the top five science fiction novels I have ever read. Preston has masterfully set his novel atop the intersecting fault lines of science, religion, and politics and he fully exploits the potential.
Preston has positively mastered the art of pacing his novel. At first, I kept turning the pages in curiosity at where everything was leading, but by the end I'd lost all control on my fingers and the pages just fly by. Not only is the pacing near perfect, the subject matter is completely engrossing. If I woke up tomorrow and saw a headline to this effect, I wouldn't bat an eye. So plausible is the premise, so familiar the characters. Moreover, Preston seems to *understand* his characters; he avoids the caricatures and creates nuanced human beings, the interactions of which are far more compelling than would be the interactions of mere walking stereotypes.
All in all, Preston just does everything right and the result is truly a work of art. I HIGHLY recommend this book to fans of the sci fi genre. To my mind, it is far superior to his more recent book: "Impact."