No one is going to turn Rupert Murdoch into a liberal, but a few nudges might convince some British investigators to follow up on what he's done, if they're inclined in that direction anyway. [p. 30]
For the past 40,000 years, a small group of gifted individuals (the Incrementalists) have been nudging human history along, making trivial changes that beget greater ones. The Incrementalists practice a kind of functional immortality: each member has a Second, and when the original weakens they put their 'stub' (a, probably metaphorical, burning spike between the eyes) into that Second. Thus, continuity is maintained, and long-term plans can come to fruition.
That's the book I wanted to read.
For the past 400 years, Celeste and Phil have been lovers. Now it's time for Celeste's personality to be merged with that of young user interface designer Renée, who he's selected as a suitable vessel. Ren helps this process by falling instantly and irrevocably in love with Phil: they have a lot of unexceptional sex. But will Celeste merge with Ren, or does (did) she have another agenda?
That's the book I did read.
The romance between Phil and Ren is a much smaller story than I was expecting ... though, to be fair, it has far-reaching effects (which is after all the whole premise of Incrementalism). There were some interesting descriptions of 'meddlework' -- social engineering -- and an exploration of some variants on the memory palace model. But I didn't find Ren especially engaging (she's been meddled with, after all) and would much rather have read about the 39,600 Celeste-free years of Phil's existence.