The Deep by John Crowley

This is a novel of rare beauty, and it is also my favorite kind of science fiction, so good and so true to itself that it turns into fine art.  For sustained tone and beauty of language, this ranks with the finest SF and fantasy I have ever read.  It easily ranks with the best of Ursula LeGuin.  And though it is worlds different from J. G. Ballard, it has the same exquisite strangeness and quality of execution.  It has the depth of Stanislaw Lem, and the sort of charm Borges would have enjoyed.

The point of science fiction is to create a sustained sense of wonder and strangeness, and this book delivers.  It never strays from the tools of the genre in its purest form, and the story itself is one that has been told in countless other science fictions stories.  The engine of the story itself isn’t so elaborate, and because of that it might not satisfy genre readers’ usual expectations, but the artistry is so fine that any reader worth his salt cannot help but abandon his usual expectations just to spend more time with this writer.

And despite the minimal visual texture and sparing characterization, I felt that each character and each place was rich, strange, and unique.  Don’t really know how the author managed to carry that off in so short a work.