Book: Hegemony by Mark Kalina.
Genre: Science Fiction.
Hegemony is a mix of cyberpunk, hard sci-fi, with a touch of space opera (in this case, FTL travel) thrown in.
Most of the known universe is part of the The Hegemony of Suns, an intersteller empire. The Hegemon has very distinct social strata. At the bottom are essentially prolls--the relatively uneducated masses living in ghettos. There are humans and modified humans above them, and, finally, the upper crust and aristocracy--not humans, but humans uploaded into neural nets that interact via sophisticated androids (biosims) in the real world, but can transfer into networks and other forms of avatars. The story, itself, focuses on Alekzandra Neel, an interceptor pilot that has made the jump from the ghettos to being transferred to a neural net.
At issue is the source of mysterious pirate attacks on merchant vessels. Neel's ship is sent to investigate and discovers the source of the attacks. However, it is getting the information to the right authorities that proves the real challenge.
The author's background in the Soviet Union shows through--the antogonists in the story are from an athiestic People's Republic obviously modeled on Soviet Russia.
The book's ending, while not really a cliff-hanger in the traditional sense, is very pointedly written for a sequel. The primary issues of the novel, heading off an intersteller war, is unresolved. The book was published in April 2012, and I cannot find any information as the status of a sequel. I very much hope there is one.
The brightest spot in this novel is the description of space battles. This is not Star Wars. There is no artificial gravity fields or blasters. Ships are driven by fusion drives or pushed by lasers. Weapons are nuclear warheads and x-ray lasers. Maneuvers are all solidly based in known physics. This is why I note that the story combines elements of hard sci-fi.
For those who enjoy cyberpunk, this story does a good job of mixing cyberpunk elements with more traditional sci-fi/space opera elements.
Character development is good. It is easy to sympathize with the characters and care about them. The background, social and political, is well done and believable.
If I were to give the book any black marks, it would be for the gratuitous sex scenes. It certainly wasn't necessary for the book and did not advance any plot element.
If it were not for the latter problem, I would rate this book at 5 out of 5. However, it nevertheless definitely deserves a 4.
Mark Kalina's Hegemony is available from Amazon for the Kindle, or from Smashwords, for 99 cents. More information here.