So, I have some fun here weaving a tapestry of sociology and politics in a distant future. But I’ve been greatly enjoying a master class in those areas: Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota series, starting with Too Like the Lightning.
It’s the year 2454! A catastrophic war around 2100 has produced a world where nation-states are vestigial, religion is purely a private matter, using gendered pronouns is faintly obscene, and the world is divided into seven factions of ideology, not territory- the Hives.
Our deeply unreliable narrator, Mycroft Canner, was once the world’s most notorious criminal. Now he serves the most powerful people in the world, documenting their power struggles in a solemn history text for future readers. (Written in an 18th-century affect, for Reasons.)
The book isn’t afraid to throw some Crazy Future Shit at you and only explain it sixty pages later, but the world is rich and cohesive enough for that to work. My favorite aspect is Set-Sets, people sculpted into brilliant living computers from infancy. (Like Boltzmann Brains, sort of.)
The mysteries and politicking are deliciously tangled; past events keep taking on new layers of meaning, lingering questions get explosively answered, and it’s all building up to something huge. The introduction of each new game piece makes me so excited to see how it interacts with the rest of the board.
There’s also a strong horny undercurrent through the series.