I became enchanted with this story, and Zindell's imagined future universe, when I encountered this book in the late 1990s. I found it via a review by Orson Scott Card in F&SF, where he raved about it and said:
I wish I had written this book. Not because I admire it (though obviously I do). My feelings are beyond mere jealousy. I wish I had written it because as I read it I heard Zindell say things I had tried to say in many of my own works, but never did, not this clearly, not this fully. I wish I had written it because it is the truth, earned truth, truth that flows out of a story that is at once grand and small, brilliant and dark, simple and intricate.How could I NOT seek it out after that kind of praise? Although it gets a little rambly in places, I do think it lives up to the praise. (The sequels... maybe not so much, but that's a story for another day...) One of the reasons I'm highlighting it on this gaming-type blog is that Zindell structures much of the story around the "Order of Mystic Mathematicians and Other Seekers of the Ineffable Flame," a learned school/society that is clearly modelled after Hermann Hesse's Castalia from The Glass Bead Game. One has to get to the second book in the series (The Broken God) to see the full parallels drawn between Hesse's GBG players and Zindell's holists and notationists, but the vibe is there in the first book.
Unfortunately, Neverness didn't take off into the stratosphere of speculative fiction like some thought it would, and there's precious little ancillary geekdom about it on the web. Not for long! I'm planning for my second PDF project to be a kind of Neverness FAQ, a spoiler-free "travel guide" to some of the things that populate Zindell's universe. I've got a draft from several years ago that outlines some aspects of geography, the calendar, and the professions of the Order. It's just something that I really enjoyed putting together, and it will be nice to see it finished. Fingers crossed! :-)