Grail novel by Samuel R. Delaney, (c) 1968.

Nova explores what it means to be human, through the device of a quest -- in this case, the quest of Captain Lorq Von Ray to snatch seven tons of stable transuranic Illyrium from the heart of an exploding star. The basic cast of early Delaney appears -- Kid Orpheus (here answering to the Mouse), one foot bare, with his treasured musical instrument; the beautiful and seemingly fragile Kyy with her husband the Beastmaster Sebastian; Lycenos and Idas, twins, one black, the other albino, the Innocents; the chronicler Katin, with his jewelled recorder containing 100,000+ words of notes but not one word of actual novel.

These characters coalesce around Lorq Von Ray, scion of the most powerful family in the Pleiades Federation, in his mission to destroy his rivals, Prince and Ruby Red, heirs of Redshift Limited, the leading family/corporation of Draco, the large empire surrounding Earth. Seven tons of Illyrium spells economic ruin for Redshift, as well as for the mining-based economy of the Outer Colonies. But for Lorq, and increasingly for his crew, the Illyrium is more than just wealth and fame, but salvation.

One interesting note -- I believe this novel may be the first major work featuring charcters who jack into computers with sockets. It is such a matter-of-fact thing, in this universe, that it is the only activity defined as "work", and the sockets are ubiquitous.