Wikipedia's Hard SF article is pretty dissapointing: a large section is devoted to Anime and there is little in the way of examples of the genre. I was thinking about recent hard SF books I have read and Ash: A secret history sprung to mind.

I read this novel whilst on holiday in Europe last summer. It features many major european cities and regions such as Milan, Lion, Dijon and the rest of Burgundy. It was interesting to be reading a novel set in the cities as I travelled through them. There's also quite a bit about the Flemish. I visited a friend of mine in Aachen which is in southern Germany on the border with Belgium and Holland where the older folk still speak Flemish.

Anyway to get back to the point. The novel was fairly laborous in places, which is typical of a fantasy (a category it nominally falls into). However it's interesting because each chapter of swashbuckling is interspersed with letters between a historian and his publisher regarding the translation and unearthing of the life of Ash (who is doing the swashbuckling).

As the novel nears its end, the Hard SF element comes out. I won't spoil it for you but it's a strange way of interpreting some quantum physics stuff. Not on the level of Egan's explorations but fun non-the-less.

The novel was slightly spoilt for me by the author's preoccupation with battle-nerve induced faeces, and a particular graphic passage about a miscarriage. Actually that is the first book I've read which very nearly had me throwing up.