Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ian M. Banks's latest Culture novel is, in my opinion, his best work to date. For the uninitiated, Culture novels usually revolve around the Culture, a perfect civilization of sorts, where people live as long as they want, benevolent (and sometimes malevolent) AIs control and provide for everything etc. Except there are tons of races in the galaxy (it is huge, after all) and the Culture deals with those both above and below it on the technological ladder. The most interesting sections of the Culture, Contact (the section dealing with other races) and Special Circumstances (the shady part of Contact) are usually at the center of most of I.M.B.'s Culture novels. No description of any of his works would be complete without mentioning the AIs or Minds as they are called. Generally AIs that control gigantic ships, AIs that are far, far outside the reach of any human, these have their own distinct personalities and play just as important a role in any Culture novel as any human character.
Surface Detail has it all - a new race, an interesting backward civilization, wierd connectons between virtual reality and the Real, crazy (literally insane) AIs with their own quirky personalities. The book is a fast read, I had a really hard time putting it down.
Couple of points of warning:
1. The book has foul language. Lots of it. It is not recommended for children; if it were a movie, it would be NC-17.
2. It is not as depressing as most of Banks's other books (Consider Phlebas for example).
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