Iain Banks is a problematic writer for me, but this is the most accessible of his Culture novels I have encountered. Still dark and and nihilistic on a deep level, with more than a few cultural and rhetorical straw men to be demolished.
Almost certainly the last one of these I'll ever try.
The story took some time to get into but the build is worth it. Multiple times I was worried that the author had over committed and overextended himself but I was wrong. The build is perfect, the story provoking, the ideas...well worth consideration. Even where I don't agree with his interpretations I cannot but appreciate his analysis. This work deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as "Dune", "Stranger in a strange land" and "I, Robot". This is everything good sci-fi ought to be.
The only book I've read multipe times [maybe 10 ?] and rewarded with cerebral pleasure each and every time - - a most elegant depiction of a future society, as well as a futuristic Candide, subtley espousing on socio-economic-political mores and thinking. Easily will last the test of time and should be considered one of the all-time ultimate SF classics! (WARNING: This book fully engages the mind, so if in a fatigued state, it might be difficult to read and comprehend!) [The only other fiction books I've read twice were Stirling's Drakon, and Metzger's Dog, by Thomas Perry - - both exceptional reads.] The genius of Iain Banks will be sorely missed!
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