Surface Detail

A Culture novel


English language

Published Jan. 4, 2011 by Orbit.

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3 stars (1 review)

It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters.

It begins with a murder.

And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself.

Lededje Y'breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture.

Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual. With the assistance of one of its most powerful - and arguably deranged - warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on. A war - brutal, far-reaching - is …

3 editions

Flawed but enjoyable.

3 stars

I think Banks wanted to write something of a critique of late stage capitalism (Culture novels in general being a variant of Space Communism). Unfortunately the villain is a bit too much of a parody for my taste. I also found the first third of the book a bit of a slog, as the various in-Hell plot lines involve a fair amount of gratuitous violence and suffering, and don't obviously go anywhere.

That said, I did find the last 2/3 fairly engaging and fun.

I suspect people who are sensitive to the portrayal of sexual violence should not read this book.