I agree with SpiderDac's comments, although I would say read Consider Phlebas first... I found Phlebas helped lube me up and ease me into the strange universe Banks has created, so I was ready for it by the time I read this and not just rammed into some seedy, dark and twisted cosmos. Awesome book though, no two ways about it one of the best I've ever read. Great plot, and great characters. Didn't see the end coming at all!! I'd love to know what Banks has been smoking though?!?