Author Jeff VanderMeer is known for his surreal sci-fi Southern Reach trilogy (the first book was Annihilation, which was made into a movie).
A giant spaceship lands in the waters offshore of Lagos, the most populous city in Nigeria, and things get out of control immediately. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor is more about the writhing, hustling world of Nigeria, and the arrival of aliens is a great way to see that in action. It’s very well-written, fast-paced, fascinating, and intense. It does not, however, make me want to visit Lagos.
No? That’s the premise of Charles Stross’s hard-science Halting State, where virtual characters rob a virtual bank for millions of not-virtual dollars, and no one has any idea how to solve the crime. It’s fast-paced, seriously smart, and filled with more Scottish that you usually get in science fiction.
There’s a sub-sub-sub genre of books out there I’ll call “Baffling Worlds.” The main character is in a world so bizarre and with such strange rules that it’s not clear whether they’re on an alien planet, in a magical landscape, or in a surreal dream. The focus of the book is not on character development or having adventures, but in the reader slowly learning about how this strange world works. Hearts of Oak is one of these books.
Midnight Robber is definitely not aimed at me. Which, honestly, made it a lot more interesting. Being extremely well written helped a lot, too.