Such enjoyable and easy to read prose. Banks feels so comfortable and natural in what he’s talking about, although he could easily sound nerdy or as if he’s trying to show off with so many contemporary technology references.
There’s a bit of a background thriller plot of some covert illuminati ‘Business’ of vast wealth, power and history, but it is largely that, just background. The foreground is the ramblings and reflections of the central character, a technology investment advisor in her late 30s. She’s smart and won’t compromise her views to flatter anyone, despite stating them with wit and respect. We get to like her and some of her close friends, and are buoyed along by settings and activities of outrageous extravagance and opulence.
I found the thriller ending a bit unconvincing: I suspect Banks doesn’t want to insult his readers by spelling it out too much (something which makes him far more enjoyable to spend time with that the usual blunt Clancy’s et. al), but the crucial ‘clue’ to me seemed pretty weak (the conspirator liked alternative number systems). Also our heroine seemed foolish to confront him – just created a powerful foe without giving herself any protection as far as I could see.
But if we leave the thriller conclusion aside (which we can with Banks), the ride is quite enjoyable enough on its own. There’s a bit of the ‘noble savage’ myth happening with the visit to a poorer country, but it’s still interesting that he even bothers to juxtapose the two worlds. Banks seems to enjoy playing with cool characters with massive wealth and power, the most extreme I’ve seen being the ‘culture’ of some of his SF novels (when he adds his middle initial ‘M’ to differentiate), but it’s also there with his millionaire bassist in Espedair Street.