I like science fiction, but you sure have to wade through a lot of crud to find the good stuff. I’d really like to find a reliable source of reviews (in other words, reviewers who agree with me). In the mean time, I’m going to list some of my favorites, starting with:
Neverness by David Zindell 1988
The city of Neverness is a sort of frozen Venice, where citizens travel by ice skates and sleds. It’s also the home of a strange society of pilots who have to juggle abstract mathematical formulas and solve them in split seconds in order to navigate space-time without killing themselves. (The author makes math sound very cool and interesting.) The book follows the exploits of the son of one of these pilots, and this involves political power struggles, planet-sized thinking machines, people who have intentionally regressed themselves to neanderthals, and a mysterious character whose occupational title is Timekeeper. The book shoots ideas around like fireworks, covering philosophy, math, destiny, and consciousness–there are more interesting notions here than you’ll come across in a dozen other books put together.
There is one catch: the book could use some judicious editing. In my opinion, portions of the story drag on unneccesarily. Zindell wrote a series of sequels where this problem seems to get worse. In the sequels, he has more good ideas to unfold, but the price of finding them gets steeper as some of the books are much too long and some silly plot and character features start to creep through. The first one is well worth it, and the rest are OK for the serious fan.