I read this book once about 8 or so years ago (and its sequel, The Gripping Hand). I am rereading it now for a school project. Currently I am looking for scenes with intercultural communication barriers, and I figured a sci-fi book about first contact with aliens would work. That is neither here nor there, however. Has anyone ever read this book? I am asking because I have also been paying attention to the writing style of the book. There are several things I would like to discuss with other writers and/or sci-fi fans. Like who exactly is the protagonist? The story starts with Rod Blaine, and a sub-plot is Rod's romance with Sally. However, the book seems to follow Whitbeard's actions more often than any other character, at least in the first half of things. It also spends a lot of time with Renner. Additionally, when a new setting is introduced, the authors use a data dump that is sort of like what one would expect from an encylopedia; at one point, at least, one of the characters is reading that data dump, but this is not explicitly stated every time. There are a few other fun things I wouldn't mind discussing, but I suppose someone might want to be passingly familiar with the story before I do. I would hate to provide spoilers, and I am only halfway through it again right now. So no spoilers for me, eh? I still remember mostly what happens, but not entirely.