Hyperion by Dan Simmons
It took me a while after enjoying my first taste of Simmons (the audio version of Drood, hauntingly performed by Simon Prebble, is a must-listen) before I took the plunge into his other works and I'm a little disappointed that I waited so long. The story riffs on Chaucer's Cantebury tales, with a band of pilgrims sharing stories as they travel; each story that's told sheds greater light on the mystery that they're traveling to--the Shrike, embodiment of death and destruction, and the hauntingly empty Time Tombs. The Chaucer-like drawing out of the world of Hyperion allows SciFi novitiates to ease into the other-worldliness but it's also an expert way to tell the tale. This is the first in a four-part series so don't get upset when the ending leaves you hanging!