The first thing you need to know about Sam Hughes’s Fine Structure is that it was originally serialized on the author’s webpage. That’s why (especially towards the beginning) the “chapters” are so all over the place. In a way, this isn’t a novel, but a series of short stories that take place in the same universe, with recurring characters, leading up to a denouement. Given all that, this is a _great_ book.
The basic idea is that there is a whole bunch of technology – ansibles, teleporters, replicators, warp drives, time machines – that should be possible theoretically, but isn’t. The experiments don’t work, or return screwy, inconsistent results. Or the experimenters die. Sometimes in grotesque ways. Also we have super-heroes for some reason? What works doesn’t make sense, and what ought to make sense doesn’t work. And somebody is responsible.
Fine Structure is a lovely ode to experimental science, and a fist-shaking-at-the-sky cry of rage at a universe that refuses to treat humans fairly. There are also discussions of how a skyscraper reacts to having someone punched through its long axis, how X-ray vision would really work, and the ennui of civilization construction and maintenance.