One of Iain M Bank’s novels set in the post scarcity, anarchist utopian world of The Culture.
…the Culture is composed of several inter-bred humanoid species, as well as machines with intelligences ranging from basic computers, to human-equivalent drones, to superintelligent artificial intelligences called Minds. The Culture’s economy is maintained automatically by its non-sentient machines, with high-level work entrusted to the Minds’ subroutines, which allows its humanoid and drone citizens to indulge their passions, romances, hobbies, or other activities, without servitude. Many of the series’ protagonists are humanoids who choose to work for the Culture’s elite diplomatic or espionage organisations, and interact with other civilisations whose citizens hold wildly different ideologies, morals, and technologies. Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Culture
In this novel a strange alien object has appeared near a distant star. What is it? Why has it appeared now?
The belligerent Affront species want to use it for their own ends,the Culture want to study the object,and so a confrontation seems inevitable. However some of the AI Minds have another more subtle plan, they see the Excession as a way to attack and neuter the Affront species.
This is my favourite Culture novel. Mainly as the Ship Minds are fully in the foreground as main characters. Some of their underlying motives being hinted at in their names. “Attitude Adjuster”, “Killing Time”, “Sleeper Service”,”Steely Glint”.
(For a full list of all Ship names see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_spacecraft_in_the_Culture_series)