Pros: fascinating premise, hard SF, clever use of vocabulary, interesting characters
Cons: confusing descriptions, frustrating opening
Hull Zero Three begins with the birth of our narrator. It's a man, fully formed, with no memories beyond dreams of colonization. He's not supposed to be awakened until the Ship has found a suitable planet for colonizing but the frozen floor and dying bodies around him indicate that something has gone horribly wrong.
The novel is a mystery that takes some time to get into. While the narrator encounters other creatures - some friendly, others not so - no one has answers to what's going on.
The quest for information is superseded by the need to find food, water and to stay ahead of the freezing sections of the ship.
I found the novel very hard to picture. The descriptions were confusing and outside any imagery of ships that I could imagine. Even knowing the creatures the narrator encounters weren't robots, I ended up visualizing them that way because what they WERE wouldn't come together in my mind.
And yet, what Bear's done is fascinating once you're far enough in that the various humanoid characters you meet have started to remember more of their imprinting. It's neat how they remember words without context. And the end plot twist, what the Ship was designed for and why it's gone wrong, was great.
This novel is good for hard SF fans. Others, keep reading - the ending's worth it.