The first Culture novel.
Not his best work. Grand scale, fascinating concepts and huge multifaceted backdrops keep you interested, but a wandering plot and no hero or even really an anti hero left my unsophisticated requirements for space opera unfulfilled.
Having read other works of his I could appreciate it more as I saw hints of things to come in terms of his further development of the culture. So I would not recommend this as a place to start taking in his work.
Ho hum - 3 out of 5.