House of Suns – Alastair Reynolds
During the era of the Golden Hour, when humanity was still congregated in one tiny corner of the galaxy, around their one familiar sun, a woman named Abigail Gentian shattered herself into a thousand clones and sent them away into the unknown on an unending quest for knowledge. Six million years later, human civilisations have risen and fallen across the galaxy and the shatterlings of the Gentian Line have been there to see it all, each circling alone through the changing stars like ambivalent gods. When rebellious shatterlings Campion and Purslane fall in love, they know they are breaking the ancient traditions of the Line and compounding their transgression by arriving decades late for the next reunion of the Line. They hope to minimise the inevitable censure by bringing a rescued hostage from the Machine People, a sentient robot name Hesperus, as their guest. But when they reach the designated reunion world, they receive a distress signal that changes everything. A secret buried in the long history of the Line has resurfaced and now the life of every shatterling in the galaxy hangs in the balance.
I have read very little in the genre of space opera before, but House of Suns blew me away. The story is a massive, intricate thing. Beautifully crafted, it is infused with magnificently ambitious science fiction concepts, spanning millions of years over the course of its narrative yet maintaining consistently on track right to the end. At 473 pages, this is a novel that requires both time and attention, but is absolutely worth it.