A Requiem for Homo Sapiens, by David Zindell
War in Heaven
This is an odd fish.
I really liked it. Big space opera and metaphysics of the soul all mashed up together around a chewey centre of some interesting characters and some intriguing concepts. At the core of this novel are questions like "What does it mean to be alive?" "What is conciousness?" and "When is it ok to kill?" but, to my mind, they're wrapped up enough in the story that you don't feel preached at. And Zindell's mystic style suits his somewhat mythical material. I'd definitely read it again.
That said, I might have trouble recommending it to anyone else. Some people will agree with me and like it, of course, but some people are going to be jumping up and down shouting "shutupshutupshutup and make something HAPPEN!" by about halfway through one of the main character Danlos mystic journeys of discovery. I would say "stately" but I can also see how for some the pace would be merely "slow." Strangely - because I often winge about the bloating of the modern SF novel - I didn't feel these 3 800 page books were too much for the story, but I'm not sure I can explain why. It just felt about right. I _would_ recommend reading Zindell's standalone novel Neverness first; if you like it, come read these; if not, save yourself some pain.
Also interesting to have a book about space travel written by a mathematician. He doesn't go into the maths, but he makes them seem real. That he makes the hero-pilots that everyone looks up to in his world The Order of Mystic Mathematicians seems less like putting himself on a pedestal and more like poking fun at mystics and mathematicians alike...