The Restoration Game by Ken Macleod
A quick, enjoyable read. Indiana Jones crossed with John Le Carré sprinkled with some Inception-like plotting.
Presents itself as a regular sci-fi novel, but the first half is almost completely filled with flashbacks, a series of nested stories, one inside the other, each level going one step further back into the past. Macleod pulls it off by having the same narrator tell most of it, then uses interrogation transcripts and letters to fill out the rest.
It’s nested all the way down, with the novel’s big ideas woven into the structure of the narrative itself. Ultimately works it way back to the very beginning, the first story, closing the loop in a very tidy (but not too tidy) way.
It’s the best method of infodumping I’ve seen in a long time.
Macleod may have carried the nesting too far. By the time I reached the end of the book (and back to the first level of nested story) I had to re-read the beginning to remind myself of what was going on there, and I’m not sure the details between the two endpoints match up.
Still, it’s a lesson in how to present a lot of backstory (~100 pages worth!) to the reader without it feeling shoved down their throat.