Most often compared to Blood Music by Greg Bear, in this book Wil McCarthy joins the ranks of hard science fiction authors exploring the apocalyptic domain of nanotech.

The world:
After some nanotech went astray and started converting everything a slim fraction (1%) of humanity has escaped to the outer reaches of the solar system - beyond the asteroid belt. On the moons of the gas giants it is safe... or safeish - the nanotech (called mycora) is slowed down by the cold.
The culture:
On the moons of Jupiter a culture has gotten a foothold, though a tenuous one. They call themselves Immunity everyone puts forth effort to do two things - survive and prevent mycora spores from establishing themselves. The world of Immunity is powered by ladderdown reactor which converts heavier elements to simpler ones and in doing so releases energy. The world is full of low atomic value metals - gold paves the roads and weighs down shoes (low gravity). The two most valuable resources are uranium and manpower.
The hero
The man character is John Strasheim - shoemaker by trade and journalist by hobby (the manpower for a professional journalist can't be spared). He is given the 'honor' of being a corespondent on a voyage to the inner solar system (the domain of the mycora) which is seen as a suicide mission.

As a hard science fiction book this one certainly fits the genre - big ideas, strange but possible societies, and a new way of looking at what science may bring. One of the areas of exploration in this is Conway's Life and complex organizations of simple components - that of emergant systems.

The first chapter can be found on Will McCarthy's site:
The first two chapters can be found at the publisher's site:

Title:     Bloom
Author:    Wil McCarthy
Publisher: Random House
Year:      1998
ISBN:      345-40857-8

Editor's note: As outlined by Lucy-S at SFF Net, the site referenced above has gone offline. As of March 2017, you can find Wil McCarthy at, and the above-linked URL is now