Stross, Charles -- Neptune's Brood

Krina Alizond is an itinerant scholar, a student of economics in an interstellar (but STL) posthuman civilization. That's "posthuman" in the literal sense; metahumanity does not have access to infinite resources, unbounded intelligence, or godlike abilities. They're just the folks who hung around after homo sapiens went extinct. They're somewhat tougher and much more radiation-resistant than us, which makes interstellar colonization possible -- though still a royal pain in the ass. And expensive. That's where the economics comes in.

This is billed as a space opera, but it's really a formal mystery -- not a murder mystery, but the mystery of an epic fraud. Krina bounces along a trail of clues and odd jobs, from scholar to starship janitor to financial buccaneer (Monty Python gags firmly in place) to police consultant to mermaid. The epic scope of What Really Happened becomes clear in fits and starts; and for this to make sense, Krina has to explain lots and lots of background. The book must be 50% infodump by weight. The introductory epigraph is from Graeber's Debt; take this as fair warning.

To be clear, this worked for me; I found the world-background (and the core economic mystery) to be at least as interesting as the story which props it up. I suspect this puts me in the same boat as the author and Paul Krugman. If you're in some other boat, the book will probably bore you snotless. We get a nice depiction of a bitcoin-style economy (with a good reason for why it's used). We get a model for interstellar trade. We get a clear view of "artificial nature" (not by that name, but it's the explanation that Karl Schroeder never managed to assemble). We get a vindictive slander of As you know, Bob, I've been wanting all of those things, so I was happy.

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