excession by iain m. banks is probably the most hard-core science fiction i have read in a long while. an example, from the beginning of chapter five:

the double-sun system was relatively poor in comets; there were only a hundred billion of them. however, many of them had orbits well outside the elliptic and that helped to make the search every bit as difficult as it would have been with a greater number of comet nuclei but in a more planar cloud. even so, it was impossible to check all of them; ten thousand ships would have been required to thoroughly check every single sensor trace in the comet cloud to make sure that one of them was not a stricken ship, and the best the break even could do was briefly fasten its gaze on the most likely-looking candidates.

as scifi goes, it is an okay book. many of the main characters are actually the minds that control the spaceships, and the way that is handled is surprisingly effective. but the human characters are pretty much consistently unlikable, the main non-human race is close to a one-note joke (thankfully a funny one), and some of the main plots really end up not amounting to anything.

(i guess this is just one of a number of books that involves “the culture,” the civilization that is sort of at the center of the action. looking through the amazon reviews, this book appears to be the one that focuses the most on the ships and their minds.)

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