I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
The first ever collection of Iain Banks' short fiction, this volume includes the acclaimed novella, The State of the Art. This is a striking addition to the growing body of Culture lore, and adds definition and scale to the previous works by using the Earth of 1977 as contrast. The other stories in the collection range from science fiction to horror, dark-coated fantasy to morality tale. All bear the indefinable stamp of Iain Banks' staggering talent.
A selection of short fiction set in the Culture universe, where your tools and equipment have opinions too and can talk back to you. My own tendency to talk to my surroundings would definitely have to change.
I really wanted to like the story where the Culture visits Earth. Is it still a first contact story if the Earth doesn’t know it’s been contacted? A bit on the preachy side, obviously written when Banks was annoyed with our treatment of our environment and each other, but acknowledging that we’ve got something special here. I liked it without have my socks blown off.
Banks is such a good writer, but not all of these stories demonstrate his best efforts. It does rather feel like a catch-all, displaying varying degrees of polish. Still, well worth reading for fans of the Culture!