A novel by Iain Banks. Easily one of the most emotionally stunning stories I have ever read. I refuse to go heavily into the plot because it would ruin it, but a few details won't hurt. Cheradenine Zakalwe is one of Special Circumstances' best agents, but he's tired. Diziet Sma, his Culture contact, pushes him towards one more adventure, backed by the drone Skaffen-Amtiskaw. Both think they know him, but there's something in his past even he barely remembers... the great battleship Staberinde lurks.

The ending is like a literary punch in the face - it's got that much impact. I strongly suggest reading Consider Phlebas and Player of Games first to understand the Culture better before this - it should be a background to the story.