Surface Detail has a lot of standard Culture novel elements: resurrections, Ships interfering, or not, in unenlightened civilizations, etc etc. But there’s a giant wrinkle that almost seems to come out of nowhere, but is intriguing nonetheless: virtual Hells. In a universe where virtual reality is a given, why wouldn’t some cultures build a Hell for their dead that their religions promised existed? And why wouldn’t the Culture, then, try and shut them down? It’s all very complicated, but filled with Banks’ usual compelling characters.
FuzzyCo grade: A