"Destination: Void" by Frank Herbert
"Destination: Void" was written in 1966, quite a while after Frank Herbert wrote "Direct Descent," which has also been reviewed here. It is much closer in tone to the Dune novels, and is more densely written. Fans of more "action oriented" sci-fi will probably find this book too "talky," or even "intellectual," but those who (like me) admire the more cerebral sci-fi authors will probably like it.
The story begins with a spaceship on its way to Tau Ceti, many light years distant from Earth. The crew of this spaceship, reliant upon the "brain computers" that guide the ship, are thrown into a desperate situation after the third and last of these "brain computers" has succumbed to insanity.
Unable to pilot the ship manually, they spend most of the book trying to create an artificial intelligence smart enough to get them to their destination. It is at this point that "Destination: Void" gets DEEP. The crew spend much of the book debating what consciousness is, how it might be created, and other philosophical and neurological issues related to their goal of crafting AI out of spare parts.
And while I found many of their discussions interesting, I am left to wonder how creating AI for the second time in human history is somehow easier than just piloting the ship the rest of the way. You would think that the crew members would have found some middle ground between using their "brain computers" and creating AI. As it is, the book never really explains WHY the crew can't pilot the ship the rest of the way, aside from the facts that a) it's really far, and b) it's stressful. But then again, what is more stressful, piloting a ship to Tau Ceti, or worrying whether or not your spaceship is going insane?
Taken altogether, this is a great book and I would highly recommend it. It has a few plot holes, but these are both far smaller and far fewer than what you will find in most popular sci-fi.