Iain M. Banks is the master of narrative zoom and pan: one minute he'll bring you in very close to a tiny moment in one person's life as she mourns the death of a brother, and the next you'll be spinning in deep space staring at a supermassive artificial world created by liquid-breathing aliens, millions of miles long, made of enormous braided tubes. Which of these minutes matters more? In Banks' new novel Matter, both do — and both are also tragicomically inconsequential. What always pleases about Banks' science fiction novels, many of which are set against the backdrop of a pan-galactic, A.I.-centric, socialist-libertarian society called The Culture, is that Banks always delivers substance and spectacle. You'll get the ethical questions, the sorrowful depictions of war, and the meditations on social evolution. But you'll also get world-shattering explosions, weird-ass aliens, and ancient technologies that are purely there to be fucking cool.
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