Oh yes, another Iain M. Banks story is out and I had to read it right away. I wasn’t disappointed either.
It’s another one of his Sci Fi books in the world, or worlds of The Culture. I wasn’t disappointed and it was interesting to see him flesh out more of his universe in this book. Like a lot of his books, there are several sub-threads within the main story with no real obvious connection between them all.
Transferring your “mind state” from the grey mushy stuff you have in your head into a computer isn’t new in this series. Even the concept of the dead “living” in a computer is not that unique. What has been introduced is the “hells”. A computer simulation of hell where people who go against some societies rules end up if they’re bad enough.
Now some civilizations think this is great, it keeps their population on the straight and narrow. As they know there really is a hell for them if they break whatever rules they have on the planet. Other civilizations think they are abhorrent and want to shut them down.
Hence the “virtual wars” where the two sides fight in simulators, winner gets to keep the hells running or shut them down, depending who you are. But now one side is thinking of taking it outside the simulation, to attacking in “the real”.
And this change to “the real” and the political mess that makes is the main story. There are plenty of twists as you’d expect. A lot of decisions made where you’re not sure if the “right” thing was done but more importantly it was a very enjoyable read.
One thing, if you are the sort of person who reads the last page first, do not do it on this book! The surprise on the last line was worth it.