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I humbly request your assistance in tracking down the name of a book I read some time ago. I can't for the life of me remember what is was called, and it seems like it should be something I should be able to find easily, but my google-fu has let me down.
I believe it came out some time in the early to mid 2000s. It was set on an orbital type world, though it had degenerated to the point where its citizens were no longer aware of the nature of their environment. It almost seems like it could be some Culture side-story about a forgotten orbital, which is why is seems like I should be able to find it, but so far, no luck.
Different cultures existed in different sections (plates?) of the orbital; I believe they were more or less unaware of each other. The main protagonist is a woman in a more advanced section, with some kind of virtual reality overlay or AI she can communicate with. I think the style of the culture was psuedo-medieval. She has to leave her section for some reason, and teams up with a character from another, more primitive(?) section, to accomplish some great task.
From here I don't remember much; there is some kind of plot involving an outsider to destroy the orbital that she must stop, and I recall a journey to the edge of the orbital and an escape (in a house that they seal and push off the edge? I know!) that takes them into the outside world, which was unaware of their existence and which amazes them with its advanced technology.
It may be that I've combined the plots of two different books which is why I can't find this - I've read most of the obvious candidates with ring world based civilisations.
The book had a fairly standard sci-fi spacey cover.
Does anyone recognise this?
It sounds very faintly like it could be Dust by Elizabeth Bear, but your description of a standard space opera cover makes that unlikely. I'll tweet this tomorrow and see if any of my intrepid readers can puzzle it out. They've done well in the past.
Thanks for your help Thomas!
It does sound faintly like it, but I'm pretty sure it's not, mainly because I checked the publish date on Dust, which was 2007.
The book I'm thinking of would have come out before 2006, and most likely between 2002-2005.
Also I think the fantasy elements ended when the characters left the first section - I don't recall anything about angels and the like.
It's the closest yet though, so thanks!
This sounds very like "Matter" by Iain M Banks to me - although the timescale does not tie in to your recollections
It's Lady of Mazes by Karl Schroeder. The escape in the house is a dead giveaway. Awesome, awesome book.
You are my hero! That's definitely it. Thanks!