I recently finished reading Idlewild, by Nick Sagan. He's the son of Carl Sagan, but his writing is descended more from the work of Neal Stephenson.
Sagan's first novel surprised me in that I rather expected it to be fantasy, based on the cover. The first part of the book carried me along in that notion, but then I discovered it was so much more.
This is by no means a polished work, but it is very very good for a first novel. I've read a lot of sf, and this still managed to surprise me (plotwise, character-wise, technology-wise). Which was refreshing.
It might not be "knock your socks off" good, but it's definitely worth reading. It's really the best thing I've read in a few months, and I've read a few good things in that time. I'll be nominating Idlewild for the Hugo and Sagan for the Campbell award (best new SF Author) this year. [I already checked and his screenwriting background does not make him ineligible for the Campbell]
And Amazon is offering the hardcover for 60% off, so hey, check it out. I'd like to know what you think.