Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley. 620 pages
On the front cover of this one is a quote from Iain M. Banks, which says "Proper galaxy-spanning Space Opera", and it does pretty much what it says on the tin :)
The premise of the story is that 150 years before the main story starts, Earth has been attacked by the Swarm, a vicious alien race that seemed on course to wipe out the human race. In desperation they launched three colony ships to try to ensure that humans survived somewhere. A century and a half later, there's a thriving human colony on a world they call Darien, working together with the native Uvovo to re-establish the forest that used to cover the planet. And then wider galactic society comes knocking…
At the start it seemed as if there might be too many threads to keep track of in the story, but once things started to come together, it became an enjoyable and engaging story with some interesting ideas. I particularly liked the concept that hyperspace (something many SF stories use without ever really exploring) is made up of the remnants of previous universes, settling in layers like silt at the bottom of an ocean. It's probably nonsense, scientifically, but as a plot device, it works well and is woven nicely into the plot.
The most annoying thing I found about the book was that all the numbers were printed as digits rather than words - I find that jarring when reading to myself, but when, as in this case, I'm reading the book aloud, it's particularly awkward, as I have to "convert" them on the fly. In fairness, this may not be the author's fault of course, as he probably gets no say in how the book is typeset.
I shall be looking for a copy of the second book in this series.