This is a book of three parts, and while they join together seamlessly they are on altogether different scales and for all practical purposes take place in different universes. The first part concentrates on some adventures of a small crew of a ship operating in the solar system, the second sees them creating a new colony on a strange new world, and the third part sees them engaging with fantastical aliens in a galactic-sized structure.
Problem is, there is a dictator without any real attitude, and I'm not convinced that she would be able to have her way so much, especially in the context of imprisoning the ship's former captain in isolation for 13 years. Too many of the other people around her are too compassionate and professional to allow it to happen. For that matter, the ship's former captain herself does not come across as a commanding type, either.
On the whole, the book is quite dry and atmospherically vacuous. It is full of description of things physical and of peoples' actions, but doesn't manage to exhume any emotion that would be there; it is mainly a matter of people rolling sleeves up and getting on with things.
Nowhere is the dryness more apparent than in the scene where the dictator leaves the aliens an Ice Angel (frozen body) -- this after a previous visit had killed a member of her crew. Nowhere at all is there mention of fear or apprehension. She even makes good observation of the aliens for the first time in that scene without any awe.
The whole book hinges on a basic idea which is weak: that a dying man believes aliens will bing him back to life if his corpse is cryogenically preserved. This idea is hammed-up by the author, holding off the final reveal until the middle of the book -- a section which comes across as very disappointing in both its predictability and unlikeliness.
Once past the middle section the work opens up into new, vast, proportions. Strange new aliens appear, and others enter the story to provide a terrifying backdrop which puts the crew's previous problems to shame. The build-up of tension and action in the last part really is quite masterful (even the names of the aliens, such as the Musk Dogs, gives the reader a sense of dread).
It is more like the sort of book that I would write (if I could) than anything else I've read. I'm definitely going to be reading more of this.