This book was the biggest revelation for me. When I was ten years old I was convinced I could dig my way to China by way of a hole in the garden and I wasn't even discouraged when I would come back each day and discover some spoilsport had filled in the hole in my absence. Where I got such a crazy idea I couldn't say (maybe being force-fed one too many sprouts as a child), but I think this incredibly ingenious and imaginative story taps into that same childish curiosity, whilst in addition providing an adult appreciation for science, history and technology. And this is only the hook for the story (a naive explorer breaking through into a infinitely different, awe-inspiring and therefore rightly frightening civilisation), only the foundation for what develops into a multi-layered, complex and enthralling chronicle of an entire race and specifically how one individual's intrusion sets of a chain of events, which comes to greatly impact this wondrous society.
Unfortunately, this book goes to great lengths to deter you from discovering its unique and absorbing properties with the most turgid and quite depressing first hundred pages of any novel I've ever had the displeasure of reading. But if you can keep the hope alive in your mind that things will eventually improve considerably, then I guarantee the time invested on that first section won't have been in vain.
Cast aside any doubts you might have concerning this book's origins in computer game territory and marvel at the intensity of the writing, the vibrancy of the characters and the distinctiveness of this book in comparison with all others of the genre, but especially marvel at D'ni...a city I am digging to at this very moment.