From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This magnificent eighth novel (after 2000's Look to Windward
) of the Culture, an interstellar posthuman civilization of incredible wealth and technological sophistication, centers on three siblings: Ferbin and Oramen, the misfit heirs of conquering King Hausk of the Sarl, who rules a backward and patriarchal realm deep beneath the surface of the artificial Shellworld Sursamen, and their exiled sister, Djan, now a powerful agent of the Culture's Special Circumstances division. When King Hausk is murdered, Ferbin narrowly avoids the conspirators and sets out across the galaxy to ask Djan's help with revenge against the killer, now serving as Oramen's regent. Soon they learn of the horrific forces a hidden enemy is about to unleash on Sursamen, and must race to save the home that has rejected them both. Beautifully written and filled with memorable characters and startling technology, this tale of intricate politics and interstellar warfare ably demonstrates that Banks is still at the height of his powers. (Mar.)
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It has been eight years since the last Culture novel, and critics have clearly missed Banks’s unique combination of galactic wonder and quirky humor. Their anticipation made for high standards, and for most critics, Matter
exceeded them. Many fans of this universe enjoyed the way Banks mixes space opera with royal intrigue, though a few felt he does not quite pull off this cultural collision with his usual finesse. A more common complaint concerned the book’s length and pacing. While most reviewers were, in the end, happy to immerse themselves in 600 more pages of Culture, the novel’s heft may make it a poor entry point for readers hoping to pick up the series for the first time. It may be best to start with the first in the series, Consider Phlebas
(1987).Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.