Bechdel Test: PASS
Deggan's Rule: FAIL
Gay Bechdel Test: FAIL
Please note: I don't review to provide synopses, I review to share a purely visceral reaction to books and perhaps answer some of the questions I ask when I'm contemplating investing time and money into a book.
Peter Watts makes scifi exciting for me again. This omnibus reads like a single epic; much like his beloved Rifters trilogy, the action in the latter book picks up right where it left off in the former book. Reading this book felt, to me, like Charles Stross meets Rifters and the Rifters win. We've got near-light speed travel, wildly augmented humans bashing headlong against the outdated confines of Abrahamaic morality and gloriously alien intelligences that are actually alien in the way the think, communicate, perceive and breed.
After all that, though, the series winds down into some familiar territory. The last few chapters of this merry-go-round don't hold as many surprises as much as they carefully tuck us gentle readers into a bed of nails with a blanket of stinging nettles. Anyone who's read Rifters will know how good at Mr. Watts is at putting an apocalypse together, and this time around he didn't have to drag up any archeobacteria. This apocalypse is the scariest kind, the perfectly plausible way humans will happily act in their own shortsighted interest to the detriment of the species, ecosystem, etc.
I think some parts of Firefall get a little bit preachy - but that may be a side effect of what happens when people try to communicate when they're lightyears apart. There aren't any "No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die" soliliquies but there are a lot of paragraphs where people try really hard to explain Their Big Idea. That being said, these are interesting ideas in interesting circumstances and I didn't mind the verbiage as much as I would have rather kept the pace of the story moving a little faster.
I really hope Mr. Watts writes some stories around his vampires; I think they're the best incarnation of humanity(ish) to come out of the posthumanist canon yet.