This "hard SF" novel focuses on the scientific progress of aliens living on a planet near the galactic center. Presumably because the curvature of space was obvious to them from the start (while it took us until the 20th century to notice it), their mathematical physics developed very differently from our own. In particular, we see that they came up with the concept of a connection before developing a notion of spacetime geometry and only derived the significance of the speed of light after that, where as these were discovered in the opposite order in our (real) history.
There are characters and plot, such as the narrator whose excitement about studying these aliens can be shared by an empathetic reader, but to really enjoy this book you probably need to care about and understand our own math and science well enough to enjoy watching the same ideas be rediscovered by aliens in alternative ways.
