Excession is Iain Banks' clunkiest book so far. It is certainly enjoyable as it introduces us to Infinite Fun, but it just had too many distractions and too many characters, with far too many of them Minds whose personalities and loyalties simply didn't make quite enough sense through 400 pages. It might have helped if I had the full sized paperback, but I had the airport sized one and.. it just got tedious. It could not have felt like a page-turner otherwise.
On the whole however, Excession is a very good story, a weird ass love story, a fairly decent alien story and an excellent introduction to how machine intelligences might work. Impossible to do in a movie, this one. Something of an absolute necessity in understanding the Culture and how Minds work together or separate, with some still unrealized questions about how exactly it is the Minds regard humans - symbionts? pets? masters?
Well, actually I shouldn't say that, because one of the major motivations of a major character in the book, the Eccentric ship Sleeper Service is to make amends for a decision that lead to the catastrophic injury to a man and the psychological trauma of a woman whe were once lovers. As part of this weird ass love story between a man who enjoys the company of a race of cruel brutes who resemble in character the slobering tentacled aliens of The Simpsons and a woman who has decided to remain pregnant for 40 years keeping that man's child in a state of suspended animation.
As Culture stories go this one is about the ship Minds, what they say to each other and what they do when they encounter the unfathomable. It's somewhat all over the place, but still recommended.