I read a story years ago that revolved around a mysterious ‘ship’ (it was a basic shape - I believe the name of the book was also around this shape) found in the universe. It had some species worried and was causing tension between other species.
My memory of the details is minimal but I do remember:
There was a woman in a tower near the beginning of the book. There were sea-like creatures that went by that she could see from her window. Her species had access (through some kind of neural lace?) to their own biology and could change themselves from appearance to gender through their mind. Her and her partner had switched genders to have a baby but something happened to her partner. (Killed in the tower?) I believe it was revealed later that she was aboard a ship.
The hero of the story was a typical ex-military rogue type character. I remember two specifics moments with him. One, he was out in a busy city hosting some kind of festival or party and was describing the different appearances chosen by the race (using this neural lace). And the other was him visiting another race. There was a big hall and the culture of this race was barbaric. He may have needed a helmet to breathe there.
Again, my memory is very foggy on the details - sorry! I remember really enjoying the different species and worlds in the book mixed with the adventure.