Neverness by David Zindell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This one kinda came out of nowhere and hit me up the side of my head.
I mean, you'd have thought I would have known all about the grand classics and any book THIS good has GOT to have about a million readers, RIGHT? At least, this is the grand assumption we (and I mean, me, sadly,) tend to make.
And yet, I've BARELY heard of this book and there's no sign of it ever becoming an audiobook and aside from a few brave glowing reviews that compare it favorably to Dune and La Morte Darthur, my skepticism remained high... UNTIL I read it.
And now, even though I've read something like 2.5k SF novels, I have to come right out and say it: I'm putting this book in my top 20 novels of all time. I'm both squeeing and deeply, deeply impressed.
This is a good thousand years in our future and the galaxy is populated with post-humans who have changed themselves into creatures both alien and familiar and often very, very strange. We begin with Pilots, a version of King Arthur's knights only with high esoteric maths, the need for immense courage because, as it is written in stone, "Pilots Die", and a somewhat simple story of a young journeyman pilot who, showing great bravery, explores a machine intelligence spanning a moon -- and more.
This interesting quest only raises a ton of new questions, and while it seems pretty straightforward, it really isn't. This is a story of the meaning of life. The search for immortality. Of friendship, of love, of parentage, of memory, and of everything from the deepest parts of our past as humans (living as cave-men takes up a great deal of the tale) all the way to immensely futuristic worldbuilding that includes folding space, speeding cognition, vast artificial intelligence, seas of godlike aquatic creatures, nanotech worlds, and... immortality.)
It sticks a pin in everything, and the characters are truly wonderful. They are so damn human. Belligerent, idiotic, sometimes wise, violent, lovers of poetry, funny, and lustful. And let's not forget that they are mathematical geniuses, prone to rage, and they're extraordinary skaters. :)
The worldbuilding is all kinds of amazing and it not only holds together as well as Dune, it feels nearly as vast, as creative, and as interesting as Dune. That's not to say it actually FEELS like Dune except in the ways that certain vast build-ups coalesce, but the comparison is still quite good.
I'm all aglow. I'm probably going to re-read this again in a few years, but first I'm going to be flying into the next book. :) Soon.
To sum up: READ THIS BOOK. It needs to be known. It needs to be talked about among all the SF fandom. If you LIKE SF at all, this ought to be a must-read. It's all kinds of amazing.
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