Peter Watts’ Blindsight is probably my favorite science fiction novel of the 21st century (Neal Stephenson’s Anthem is a close second). The official synopsis begs the question: Who do you send to meet the aliens when they arrive?
Send a linguist with multiple-personality disorder and a biologist so spliced with machinery that he can’t feel his own flesh. Send a pacifist warrior and a vampire recalled from the grave by the voodoo of paleogenetics. Send a man with half his mind gone since childhood. Send them to the edge of the solar system, praying you can trust such freaks and monsters with the fate of a world. You fear they may be more alien than the thing they’ve been sent to find–but you’d give anything for that to be true, if you knew what was waiting for them. . . .
Yes, there’s hard science fiction and a vampire in Blindsight, because Blindsight is fucking insane. I haven’t read the sequel yet, but I’m kind of saving it until I get around to rereading Blindsight. Books like this just don’t come around very often.