Here's a a short review of Dark Light, the 2nd book in Ken MacLeod’s Engines of Light series – a classic intermediate chapter building the setting for the final instalment whilst re-visiting a load of old-Earth politics, leading to a classic clash of Philosophies and Ideologies, with the usual violent results for the local civilization.
The book picks up where the first one left the story – or, actually, it picks it up a light speed journey later, which means a lot of time has passed in the Universe, but none for the travelling protagonists. And, as they are at the event horizon of their event cone, it could as well have been an instantaneous transition, as Matt Cairns, the old Cosmonaut from Earth finds (his internal clock is still on 2049 plus the years he’s lived. Never mind a few centuries passing whilst travelling at the speed of light!).
This book is a collection of short stories playing in a 30k-long shopping Mall out in the Solar System, which itself is encased in an isolated pocket universe for humanity’s sake (or so the Selespridar say). The stories are linked by the Selespridar Auditor checking a sample of humans to see if humanity is ready to be released into the Galaxy and it’s civilization at large. But let’s start at the beginning...
Zoe McOmar is a ‘lonely unsatisfied Bible Belt Virgin’ as she puts it herself. She lives in Godzone, one of three Cylinder Worlds (plus the Vatican Asteroid) that make up the Bible Belt. Godzone is reserved for the reconstructionist Neo-Amish-Buddheo-krishna-ologism faithful (in contract to the recreationist and reformist strands), but not for Zoe anymore – she grabs her parents Toyochev (hurhur) and makes her way to Mallworld, the 30k long shopping mall and centre of the cilivized Solar System, obviously. Everything is on sale there, from babies at Storkways to your own death at the Way Out Suicide Parlors.
Here's a classic: Ringworldby Larry Niven, the 3rd Novel to win both the Hugo and the Nebula awards (there have been a few more since).
I feel that the ‘Hard SF’ tag is rather undeserved, but consider this tale of strange aliens, unfathomable artefacts, and the rise and fall (mainly the latter) of galactic races and civilizations highly entertaining. ‘Wizard Of Oz in Space’, was what came to mind...
Louis Wu is celebrating his birthday with a huge party. But, given that it is his 200th birthday, he feels 24 hours are not long enough, and at midnight he embarks on a trip around the world, from town to town, always ahead of the new day, to extent his Bicentenary as long as possible. During one of these jumps his Transfer Booth is tampered with, by Nessus, a Puppeteer, who want to hire him for a top secret mission.