With a nod to Jens, here is some Sci-Fi literature I've had on my reader recently:
George Alec Effinger - When Gravity Fails
Nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1987 and the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1988, this book has received a lot of praise. When Gravity Fails takes places in a near-future cyberpunkish middle eastern city where cybernetic implants, downloadable personality and highend drugs collide with conservative Islam. The low-level hustler protagonist becomes involved in a murder case and gets hired by a local mob boss to investigate. This book is so interesting because it has a very unconventional setting (far from the ultra-urban sprawl of other cyberpunk works) and involves many issues society deals with today, like transsexuality or the collision between modern technology and religion. There's lots of drugs, lots of thugs and lots of praising Allah. It stands out from the mass of the genre, and it happens to be a good read as well.
George R.R. Martin - Dying of the Light
I admit I only read this because of his Game of Thrones fame. Before GRRM did fantasy, he was a Sci-Fi writer and this was his first full length novel. Set on a mostly abandoned planet moving away from its sun, the protagonist comes to the aid of his former lover only to find her entangled with a tribe of warriors. The whole book reeks of decay, of lost hopes and ghosts of the past. The main character isn't a hero and his desparate outreach to his former girlfriend lacks a future as much as the scenario. This gloom becomes a bit hamfisted at times and none of the main character is likeable, but it transport the idea of this abandoned world really well.
Bruce Sterling - Schismatrix Plus
Schismatrix takes place in the Shaper/Mechanist universe, where humanity has colonized the solar system and split in two factions, the shapeshifting shapers and the technology-absorbed mechanists. Exiled from his aristocratic home for switching sides, the diplomacy-trained Abelard Lindsay becomes a fraudster, a pirate, a miner and a hermit - until first contact with a peaceful alien species that is obsessed with trade turns him into the foremost ambassador to them. When these alien visitors offer no way out from the stuck development of humanity, Lindsay becomes the figurehead of a movement to terraform the solarsystem, while his past catches up with him. This space opera has enormous breadth, jumps between styles and gets confusing at times, but it has many fun elements.
Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle - The Mote in God's Eye
Ringworld is one of my favourite books of all time, so more Niven can't be bad. In this collaboration with Pournelle, humanity sets out to make first contact with an alien species. The "Moties", while fuzzy looking and generally friendly, are stunningly different from humanity and keep secrets from their visitors that will decide over the course of mankind's development for the next centuries. Written in Niven's easy to digest wording, it's a fun excursion into the implications of first contact and a very original alien species...
Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes - Legacy of Heorot
...so why not have another one. Legacy of Heorot is about the first human colony on an alien planet. The settlers, while expertly chosen and diversely skilled, suffered minor brain damage from cryosleep and still work on setting up their first village, when they encounter local fauna that is more dangerous than anything they were prepared for. Not as exciting as other Niven works because it is not as fantastic, with most of the book about surviving huge dinosaur monsters.
Iain M. Banks - Excession
Part of his extensive Culture series, (I read Use of Weapons before), Excession takes a look at the minds, the powerful AIs that govern humanity and their colonies across the galaxy. When an alien artefact that offers unprecedented knowledge and power turns up, it becomes a race between the Culture's minds and a warlike alien species. I generally dislike it when machines in Sci-Fi become to humanized, but Excession is the exception to that rule. My biggest criticism is that the human protagonist follows a plotline that ultimately goes nowhere and contributes little to the events. Still, makes me want to read more Culture novels.
Dan Abnett - Titanicus
Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim dark future there is only war. I've read Abnett's Eisenhorn before, this is my second Warhammer 40k novel. Focusing on the Adeptus Mechanicus, humanity's biomechanical tech-priest offshoot, the story takes place on a forge-worlds under attack by chaos forces. It's engine war, towering mech against towering mech, with footsoldiers reduced to ants by comparison. It's as stupid, banal and entertaining as one might expect and therefore a thoroughly enjoyable read for anybody with some affinity for W40k.