The Good: Amazing prose that seamlessly shifts between characters creating a distinct flavor for each whether in first-person or third. The setup of with the self-declared unreliable narrator adds a more experimental feel to it, while also adding some additional intrigue. The excellent prose is also used to make info dumps interesting, and while these dumps are helpful, they’re delayed and spaced out in a very professional, clearly thought-out manner. The writing alone in this book makes me want to read Banks’ “space-operatic” works (Consider Phlebas and The Player of Games to start with).
The Bad: Banks is guilty of proselytizing for a few causes at points during the book, the most obvious of which is the use of torture as an interrogation technique. Honestly, I could have done without pretty much the whole Philosopher character in the book (the who does the torturing). I realize he is important in a few places, but for the number of pages dedicated to him and his background, I feel like there should have been more tie-in with the book rather than just serving as a platform to say that torture is bad. But then, I’m one of those people who doesn’t really like to examine society through the lens of a future world and would rather read and write adventure (or perhaps “pulp”) style fiction.
A Final Note (on my review in general): I am not going to review books that I feel are just mediocre or otherwise not worth reading. You can feel confident that if you see a book review here, it will be because I feel the book is worth your time to read (and this comes from a self-proclaimed slow – although actually fairly average – reader). I may consider reviewing a book that I had to put down in order to warn people away from wasting their time. But there’s enough negative media in the world already, that my goals is to focus on the good books and leave others to tell you what not to read.