Illustration: Thomas Pringle
I've just finished reading the excellent hard SF novel Blindsight by Peter Watts. It's basically a first-contact story between an alien entity and a crew of freaks. The crew is composed by a linguist with multiple personalities, a biologist so radically interfaced with machinery that he sees x-rays and tastes ultra-sounds, a pacifist warrior whose career-defining moment was an act of treason, a synthesist (an informational topologist with half his mind gone) and a vampire to command them all.
The book has been released under a Creative Commons license and is available to download as a PDF file here. I'm going to buy that book for sure, it's probably the best hard SF novel I have read in a long time.