I love the way Charlie Stross writes; he uses his books to test a theory, and nowhere is this more true and more evident than in his Halting State / Rule 34 novels.
Whilst superficially the stories follow a pair of criminal investigations, the theses tested include the implications of a world of augmented-reality gaming and digital infrastructure gone mad, and examining the nature of artificial intelligence and the potential evolution of spam-filtration into possibly sentient moral arbitration. It’s absolutely fascinating and terrifyingly possible, and when discussed via the mechanism of a criminal investigation and some very weird people, thoroughly, thoroughly entertaining.
Anyway, have finished Rule 34 now. Highly, highly recommended, and I’m looking forward to the next concept Mr Stross decides to test in his Scottish near-future world.
The experience reminds of when I first ploughed through Asimov’s Foundation series – whilst that ended up a fairly typical space-opera, the series initially was a testing ground for a deterministic philosophy of human society and a theoretical science. At least, that’s how I saw it when it was the subject of my BA philosophy of science thesis…