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Surface Detail
Iain M, Banks
Orbit, Oct 28 2010, $25.99, ISBN: 9780316123402
reviewed by Harriet Klausner

The Culture employs special technology throughout the galaxy that enables humans and aliens to select who they want to be. On the planet Sichult, powerful Veppers is assisted by two of his employees, rapes and murders sex slave Lededje Y'breq; but not before she rips some skin off their leader.

The Culture artificial intelligence on a nearby starship resurrects Lededje. She is expected to enact vengeance for her homicide. At the same time, a debate within the Culture leadership continues over what to do about evil sinners like Veppers and his minions. Some insist they should be transported to cyber Hells to suffer punishment until either redeemed or eternity whichever comes first while others insist the more humane response is capital punishment.

The latest Culture space thriller (see Transition and Matter) is an incredible accomplishment as Iain M. Banks shifts effortlessly between reality and virtually so much so the reader will wonder what real is and what fantasy is. Fast-paced from the haunting opening assault and never slowing down, fans of the saga will love this powerful entry while newcomers will be searching for the backlist.

contents - editorial - reviews