Stations of the Tide, by Michael Swanwick. I was irritated with it at first, and while it did become more coherent, I just found it to be a fairly pointless book. The plot was sketchy, the characters were cardboard, and the Christian allegory trite. The idea of a tidal world is very interesting, but it wasn't developed very much; in fact, there were a number of neat little notions here and there, but most of them were briefly touched upon and then forgotten. I didn't hate it, but it's not a book I'd recommend for most people.
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. Now THIS book is one I'd recommend--and probably give as gifts to people. It consists of four stories, each nested in one another. They are tied together by a common thread, as each is a depiction of rising up against slavery, past, present, and future. The stories each have a character with a birthmark; Mitchell has said that the birthmark indicates that the possessor is the reincarnation of the same soul. There were a number of delightful concepts that led me to fill the book with page flags so I can go back through and write about them later. I have done part of it in a private entry; when I finish, I'll post it so everyone can see it. For now, I will just say that Cloud Atlas is a beautiful, incredible novel that I could NOT put down. I checked it out from the library, but I definitely want a copy of my own so I can flip through it again and again.
Hyperion, by Dan Simmons. This is an epic adventure tale, with many characters whose interwoven stories become part of a larger picture as they learn more about one another. The separate lives they had been leading were not as separate as they realized. Essentially, seven people are making a pilgrimage to a dangerous place on a planet that is under attack by barbaric enemies of mankind. There is a deadly foe, The Shrike, that has power over time, and can kill people in an eyeblink, with no one even seeing it arrive or leave. Simmons has a compelling storytelling ability, and it was tough for me to put the book down even when I needed sleep! It ends in a cliffhanger, though, so make sure you can get your hands on the sequel when you're done. I'm making myself wait, because I have a bunch of library books to work through first.