A novel by the Scottish science fiction writer Iain M. Banks. It's his usual thing: Cool technology (cooler than usual; just a regular parade of bizarro gadgets etc.), weird cultures, violence, at least one vast roaring cataclysm that takes several pages to describe, weird and amusing subcultures (e.g. a troop of solipsist soldiers of fortune), a convincing sense of a solid and detailed history lurking behind current events, real characterization, etc. He writes awful darn well for a science fiction writer, not just terms of prose, but in terms of all-around craftsmanship. It's either set outside his Culture universe, or set within it at such an enormous distance from the Culture itself that the distinction is academic.

There are flaws: The whole thing revolves around a sort of futuristic A Team, which is cheesy. They spend the book looking for a MacGuffin called a "Lazy Gun", a wonderfully Banksian super-gadget. It's not as arbitrary as it seems, and the "episodic" structure has some meaning lurking beneath, but still: You could very easily design some sort of "adventure game" based very closely on it, and at times the book itself "feels" like somebody transcribing a session of that very game.

There really doesn't seem to be much of a point to it at all. Lucky us! It's cool enough not to need an excuse.

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