Crazy stuff, really wild space opera from a Scottish master of the genre. The further along I get in this, the more irresistable its hold on me. Could be I'm just a sucker for this kind of thing, but generally cosmic tales of the far-flung future involving this group of planets over in this quadrant having a beef with an ancient alien cloud coming the heart of that black hole yonder don't stick, they reek too much of fantasy. Yet Banks has pulled me in with Excession, which has no shortage of galactic intrigue. It also has a touch of poetry, as the central conflict lies with a diplomat who must secure the soul of a dead starship captain who witnessed a black star older than the Big Bang.
She is in the keeping a sentient starship that passes time crafting tableaux of historic battles. We're talking about football field-length works of physical recreations. The ship is an eccentric and solicits people to come and hibernate so that it may use their sleeping forms in its art. The dead captain, personality stored in digital form and given holographic expression, wanders the scenes, belly perpetually pregnant, wistful for a day when she can see new worlds, new vistas, all the while ignorant of the diplomat who is rushing to find her before universal armageddon comes about.