Excession had me from the start. This is proper literature which, as such, leaves Arthur C Clarke and E E "Doc" Smith for dead. The ideas in it are out of Clarke's league, too. There's something cinematic about the narrative, cutting and diving between figures and dialogues (the communications between the ships are especially fascinating) as Banks unravels, surely and deliberately, the plot. It's challenging - not a word in the 451 pages is wasted, and you can not afford to casually flick through a couple of pages. Fortunately, you never feel the need to. Readers of his straight fiction will know Banks' particular gift for story telling: it is put to even better use here. After fifty pages you know you're in the hands of a master - a fine, wicked, playful master at that.
Banks' only concession to the genre is to give his humanoid characters silly names, such as Dajeil Gelian and (& I'm not kidding) Sikleyr-Najasa Croepice Ince Stahl da Mapin. Knowing Banks' style, however, this is probably some sort of in-joke that I don't get, so the laugh's most likely on me for missing it. His spaceships, which are delightfully sentient, all get terrific names, on the other hand, such as The Problem Child and Fate Amenable to Change. Cool. Great book - ideal holiday reading; excellent for a 15 hour ferry trips from Bari to Igoumenitsa.
What did you think of this review?