Friend of mine described a book -- a pair of books -- as having an unusually large and assorted cast and a broad narrative sweep in a well-developed setting of unusual depth and scope. I asked if it was, perhaps, Melissa Scott (possibly one of the most skilled worldbuilders presently writing science fiction, as in, she makes [or made, the website's gone] money teaching the art to others) and he wasn't sure, but offered to loan me the books.
Peter F. Hamilton is not a pseudonym for Ms. Scott; among other details, he's British and it shows in subtle ways. He is, however, quite a worldbuilder himself and appears to have set out to hit as many SF tropes as possible while telling an entertaining and original story. His novels Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained (link goes to Tam's blog; follow her sidebar to Amazon.com, if you would) have the size and scope of an early John W. Campbell novel or something from E.E. "Doc" Smith. Did you like the travel concept behind Tunnel In The Sky or (somewhat) Crawford Kilian's "Chronoplane" novels? It's in there. Long life, in the manner of Heinlein's "Howard Families?" Check. Big Science, Big Capitalism, the struggle for the little guy? Check. Well-integrated direct brain-to-computer interface, realistically used? (Akin to Cherryh's use in Hammerfall and Forge Of Heaven) You'll find it. Strong heroines and stronger heroes (even a Kimball Kinnison analog -- which reminds me of the used of bugs for "bugging," another bit of business you'll find in both Hamilton and Doc Smith). Let's see, what have I missed? A highly-critical little something from Olaf Stapledon's First And Last Men, a visit from elves (! so to speak) and a walk down their paths (!!), a side trip through a leftover Andre Norton ghost world, at least two angles on a Kim Stanley Robinsonesque Mars, an Investigator whose birthworld and person seem strikingly U. K. Le Guin-worthy and a couple of smart-alec inventors who could sneak right into most John Varley novels.
That's just the beginning and yet the work is neither derivative nor parodical. These books are well-written, freewheeling Space Opera (complete with Girl Reporters Gone Wild, Dashing Romantic Heroes and Desperate Struggle Against Impossible Odds -- oh, and chase scenes). I'm about seven-eighths of the way through the second book and I highly recommend them.
(Up next, steampunk epic Boneshaker, thanks to a very kind reader who sent me a copy!)
3 weeks ago