Last night I finished Rosebud by Paul Cornell, which is a first contact story about five digital beings working onboard a corporate exploration spacecraft around Saturn who encounter an alien artifact amidst its rings. The perspective on the alien in this novella was actually original and felt actually alien; the characters do struggle to figure out the alien technology and its implications. The science was iffy, especially regarding the alien technology covered in the story, so I wouldn't call this a hard science novel.
However, what I really liked was the glimpse into the far future society crew is from and was exiled from. It was convincing and nightmarish, more so than the alien object itself. All of the characters are criminals, by their company's standards, who are serving sentences as explorers, prospectors, and miners on board the eponymous Rosebud, where their minds have been forcibly uploaded and regularly conditioned to accept company, even against their will. People looking forward to brain uploading should read book for the downsides. :^)
But the setting is a Solar System dominated by the Company, which has subsumed most governments and corporations in wake of a catastrophic climate change. Global warming is ravaging Mars, where the terraforming has realistically gone wrong, and all extraterrestrial colonies are under restrictive control. Mind uploading is regularly used as punishment for even minor crimes and offenders are used as penal labor.
The crew itself is even more interesting. It consists of an artificial intelligence who started life as a videogame character, an English trans woman who was executed for when transphobic government came to power, an American polyamorous man who was executed by Christian fundamental government left over from series of civil wars, a Russian artificial intelligence that was originally created for social warfare before being discarded, and a collective intelligence formed by uplifted bees created to fill the vacuum left by regular bees going extinct due to colony collapse disorder. Yeah, all the backstories are depressing to varying degrees.
However, despite the despairing nature of the book, I found it enjoyable and would recommend reading to the end. It packs a lot into 108 pages and I definitely thought it was a page turner, particularly towards the end.