Don’t think this was already discussed in one of the forums—I apologize if I missed it.
The Culture sci-fi novels of Ian M. Banks are extremely well-written, with great detail.
They depict an amazing future full of wonder and the triumph but continuing challenges of a liberal, atheistic viewpoint.
He is remembered in NYT here:
Mr. Banks, a self-described “evangelical atheist” and liberal, said his science fiction often conveyed his political views.