Years ago, there was a sci-fi novel that I read about a series of ill-fated expeditions to explore an alien structure in space. It popped into my head for some reason, and it's been driving me crazy that I can't remember what the book was or who wrote it (or if it was actually any good, for that matter)...

I think the structure was only accessible every so often (once a year? once every three years?), but the items I do remember are:

  1. Every team died, to a series of traps or other hazards—I don't remember there being any inhabitants; the dangers were environmental. If I remember correctly, the novel started when there had already been numerous attempts to explore it.

  2. The teams live-streamed their video and telemetry back to earth

  3. Almost the entire planet watched the expeditions in real time, and provided feedback as to what the team should do next, which was aggregated and relayed to the mission leadership—it was sort of like when Twitch played Dark Souls (but before that happened, and with real human lives at stake).

  4. The novel prominently featured a sort of stock market or futures exchange where people would invest in the outcome of almost any public event in order to try to bring it about. The author actually created a website to mimic this system (but did not accept funds—you just voted for things that should happen in the real world).

I cannot pin down the author to a specific sub-set of those I've read, but I believe it was written after 1990, and before 2010. The fact that there was a website connected to it would seem to date it, but it could have been associated with a later edition/publication of the book, so I don't want to overly restrict my criteria.

I do not believe it had any sequels or tie-ins.

I've tried searching various engines, StackExchange, Goodreads, etc. as well as conversing with assorted large language models, and have repeatedly come across these (somewhat similar) plots which are not the book I'm looking for.

  1. Rogue Moon
  2. Rendezvous with Rama
  3. Ship of Fools
  4. Pushing Ice
  5. Blindsight

I'm starting to think I imagined the whole thing... Anyone have an idea of what this could be?

  • I have marked your question as a Duplicate. That does not mean that it is a bad question — in fact, it was good enough that DavidW instantly recognized it — but it is one that we've had before, and we like to keep those questions organized. You will still get upvotes for your question.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Jan 26 at 18:57

2 Answers 2


This sounds, especially the futures market part, like Marc Stiegler's 1999 novel Earthweb. Quoting from the plot summary on Wikipedia:

EarthWeb is set in a future where Earth faces a recurring attack every five years by a massive spaceship of unknown origin. Named Shivas, after the Hindu deity, these ships are vast, robot-crewed, and progressively more advanced. The apparent ultimate goal of the Shivas is the total extermination of the human population on Earth.

Highly trained hero commando squads, known as Angels, infiltrate and attempt to destroy each Shiva using data gathered through an expanded, global version of the internet.

A crucial feature of this web are the 'castpoints' (derived from 'forecast') where individuals can wager money on the internal layout of each Shiva and the potential solutions to various problems the Angels might encounter within the ship. The betting system ensures the prominence of beneficial ideas (those most wagered on), and rewards those skilled at identifying these good ideas by increasing their winnings, thereby enhancing their influence on future idea selection.

The novel had its own dedicated website with additional resources that was mentioned in the appendix:

If you have trouble finding any of these pages in your Web archive, to find other pointers go to: http://www.the-earthweb.com

  • 1
    I totally recognize this because I just asked about it.
    – DavidW
    Commented Jan 26 at 18:34
  • Solved--this is absolutely the book I was trying to remember! Commented Jan 26 at 18:51

The novella “Diamond Dogs” by Alastair Reynolds has that basic plot, but I don’t currently have access to a copy to check if the other details match.

  • not the one I was looking for--that was EarthWeb by Marc Stiegler, but this is a very relevant response! Commented Jan 26 at 18:52
  • 1
    There's no audience or wagering in Diamond Dogs. Commented Jan 26 at 18:55

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