I found Encounter with Tiber to be really good hard science fiction with interesting political commentary. The book asks us to take a long and wide view of the universe.
This story is told from the view point of a historian travelling to Alpha Centauri. Stories of our civilization and that of an alien civilization fighting for its survival are presented as part of the historians long term projects en route to our nearest star.
I think it would have enjoyed it even more if I have discovered this book when it was first published in the late 1990s. Encounter with Tiber was written to be solidly in our reality when it first came out. But as might be expected with any work of fiction, events in the book have diverged badly from our reality. Our future seems much less hopeful than the society in the book striving to understand a truly alien society.