Huge, teeming, amorphous, distinctive debut: a far-flung space opera involving immortality, Neanderthals, mathematics, world-brains, exploding suns, reincarnation, and what-have-you. Most of the problems here derive from Zindell's having written three books--at least--and squished them into one. And the fairly banal backdrop barely holds things together: the icc-bound city of Neverness supports a far-future civilization comprising priest-like scientific colleges such as the Order of Pilots. Much more interestingly, however, the pilots navigate from planet to planet through wormholes in space-time by instantly propounding and solving higher-order mathematical equations. The first plot features pilot Mallory Ringess' investigation of the Solid State Entity, a god-like being whose very brain-parts are silicon moonlets, so intelligent that it (she, as it turns out) manipulates whole fields of knowledge the way ordinary mortals manipulate words. Another plot describes Mallory's sojourn among the Alaloi, humans who have back-mutated genes and resemble Neanderthals in appearance and behavior. Yet another plot lends the proceedings some cohesion: a quest for immortality leads Mallory, now Lord Pilot and incipient super-being, from the Solid State Entity via the Neanderthals to the mysterious Timekeeper, the most powerful lord of Neverness, who attempts to destroy the city with an atomic bomb rather than yield up his secrets. Zindell succeeds brilliantly in his evocation of mathematics, and in his convincing portrayal of what a super-intelligent being might be like. Immoderately flawed, then, but vastly promising work.