I couldn’t wait for this one to come up on my wish list… I checked it out from the library. The first thing I noticed was that Mr. Banks has a new jacket-flap photo. Aaagh! He looks old! That means I’m old too!
I love all of the Culture novels, but some are better than others. This is one of the better ones.
The Gzilt culture have scheduled the time at which they, as a culture, will Sublime – leave the concern of this world behind for a higher plane of existence.
Before this happens, a young woman from Gzilt, Vyr Cossont, has made it her life-work to successfully play one of the most difficult pieces of music ever written – the Hydrogen Sonata. (Too bad that from an aesthetic perspective, it sounds godawful, and pretty much no one wants to listen to it.)
However, on a higher galactic level, events concerning the Gzilt are afoot. An elder race has a secret concerning the Gzilt’s primary religion, and revealing that secret might interfere with their Subliming. Or not. Maybe it wouldn’t make a difference at all. However, for some reason, someone cares enough about this mystery to blow up and murder a Culture Mind ship – which captures the attention of a bunch of nosy/aloof Minds, who choose to investigate.
The only lead they have is rumors of a man who is said to be the oldest human alive – and by coincidence, Vyr Cossont had a passing friendly acquaintance with him a few years back. She gets recruited to help track him down to try to find out what he knows….
All this, and a ton and a half more, get tied together in a complex, philosophical, grotesque, eerily beautiful, and oh yeah – funny and action-packed narrative.