In the grand space opera style, Nights Dawn is I think the best of Peter Hamilton's work. Be sure to start with the first book Reality Dysfunction as my brother and I often trade books (before Kindle) and when I gave him the stack of books he started with the wrong one and then complained "I can't really get into this". The Wiki here:
First off, no one will thank me, at least initially, for getting them to read Vance. That's because he's addictive, and hard to find. Secondly, I ought to mention that during the volunteer effort to produce all of the works, I was a worker bee as well as the business manager. Lastly, I and a few other people publish new copies of the collected works. However, at $1500 for a set that is produced after payment up front, I don't expect anyone to use my editions as "getting familiar" copies. Plenty of Jack's paperback is out there, though. Try www.abebooks.com.
You will find me reading every spare minute. I always have a paperback in my pocket -- if I'm waiting for someone or I'm early for a meeting or I'm grabbing a bit to ear, you'll find me reading.
If I'm traveling I get the cheapest seats and flights I can, and I don't mind long layovers because I simply see them as a chance to curl up in a corner and read... :-)
Even if I'm watching a really great program on TV, I'll have a book on my knee and read it during the adverts...
Based on this, would he be classed as as "Unknown" -- maybe we should instead add him to the list of "must reads"... which I will start off in a future blog (watch this space "Programmable Logic Designline")...
I'm surprised that a list of "unknowns" doesn't include Jack Vance. He wrote from 1944 through his last work in 2009, and along the way received a Nebula award, a Science Fiction Grand Master's Award, and an Edgar for his mysteries. His writings come to 4.4 million words, spread along 120 titles. One of his short stories, "The Moon Moth", has been reprinted about 45 times in 14 languages. He influenced writes such as Ursula LeGuin and Gene Wolfe, as they claim.
Between 1999 and 2009, dedicated volunteers located around the world collected, edited, and printed his life work in a set of 44 volumes. If you are curious, look him up on Wikipedia, and in the reference section, you'll find links to samples of his writing.
Warning: Jack Vance is dangerous to read. He is addictive--however, you'd be in good company of many SF authors, Paul Allen, and the former CEO of E-Ink.
One of the best I've seen (partly because it doesn't play too fast and loose with the laws of physics is _The Mote in God's Eye_ by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. There's a good synopsys on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mote_in_God's_Eye
David -- re your question above ("What does my mother call me") ... I can't answer on the original thread because the system limits us to 4 levels of indented replies to an original post ... so her's the answer...
If she's in a good mood she calls me her loving son ... but occasionally she calls me a "pillock" (I'm assuming she means this in it's current incarnation meaning "idiot" or "fool" and not it's earlier meaning .... which I will leave you to research)