May contain spoilers.
Thank goodness because its been 8 years since the last novel featuring The Culture and I was beginning to give up. Mind you I consider “The Dwellers” from The Algebraist to be the “The Affronters” from Excession which could put it in the same Universe, although probably Pre-Culture – a stretch I know, but their description and behavior seem identical and …
…yes I like the Culture books that much and you can start slowly scrolling quietly backwards now.. 🙂
The book delivers on some good Culture ship names (“ROU: You’ll Clean That Up Before You Leave”), a possibly homicidal Drone disguised as a dildo and some “Special Circumstances” action. For my liking there is not enough Knife-Missile play, but is there ever?
The final showdown takes 95% of the book to set up, and is set in a medieval shell-world using the plot device of “the boy who would be king usurped by his regent”. Per weight the book is more of a medieval political thriller with a guest appearance by the Culture.
Despite that, the 5% at the end is full of some some hard and fast anti-matter lobbing, field flicking and plain old nuking from orbit till they glow in the dark, cause as we all know its the only way to be sure 🙂
Everyone who dies does so suddenly.
I liked it.
PS. Read past the liberal Appendix or you will have no idea what happened at the end.