I've been rereading this second Culture novel and have now finished the first of four sections, "Culture Plate". One thing I really love about this work is the slow, very slightly indulgent pace of the first section, where Banks quite adroitly (and without info dumps) gives the reader a rather thorough glimpse of various facets of mainstream Culture life, standards and perceptions. It doesn't 'seem' as if the writing is anything special, but it's actually quite subtle and skilled, and injected with a bit more humour (at least, a little more frequently) than with the previous novel, Consider Phlebas. There is quite a bit of information given away through individual reactions, a feature I really admire. Sometimes, an adjective or an entire sentence is casually thrown in that carries a fair bit of weight. And I haven't even gotten to the really good parts of the novel, yet, though I'm quickly approaching it. I'd always felt Gurgeh to be someone that I didn't particularly like, but someone who's development I truly appreciated. However, this time around, I'm actually liking (certain aspects), understanding and empathising with Gurgeh much more from the very beginning. Who's read this novel (or reading it now) and loved/hated it? Although, I would find it difficult to imagine someone disliking this particular book - I can understand some people having a difficult time with Consider Phlebas, but this one is just too straightforward and imminently readable.