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).
OMG, this is great! A spy novel with sentient space ships in the spy roles.
I'm particularly amused by the horrible, bigoted tentacle beasts that are trying to compete with the Culture, here. They are all the worst characteristics of the "Old Boys Network" personified--so hilariously bad that they are highly entertaining.