Another space opera with galactic vision from the master who is Iain M Banks. Set once again against the backdrop of the near omnipotent Culture, this latest romp from Banks takes place for the most part on a constructed world made up of planet sized concentric spheres. The epic nature of this form of construction, and the science required to balance the gravities when some layers are full of water for aquatic creatures and others air, is left to the reader’s imagination to work out – and indeed the Culture themselves take the view that the elder civilization that built it was pretty clever. With this backdrop of engineering scale, Banks focuses in on an apparent localized squabble between two relatively backward races living on adjacent levels. These races know of the sphere and the more advanced races that run it, but are content to exist in their own way until they evolve some more. Well it would seem that way, until some of the more advanced nations take it upon themselves to get involved and the story moves towards its suitably grandiose denouement. Banks blends science fiction, politics and ‘human’ level stories together in a way that drags you along while opening your mind at the same time. A must read for any sci fi fan, and beyond.