I hadn't read a Culture novel in a long time. Searching through my Amazon recommendations, I saw the title and immediately remembered the impression books like "Consider Phlebas", "The player of Games" and "Use of Weapons" (but also his non-sci-fi "Wasp Factory") had made on me years ago. So I bought it... and now I am hooked again. Banks is a great writer. His books are entirely believable, the language and general writing style is masterful and the plots are deliciously convoluted. You can't read Excession absent-mindedly, you need to devote your attention to it, but the resulting reading pleasure more than compensates you for the effort.
What I particularly liked about this book was that the moral/ethical dilemmas of war vs peace, action vs inaction, secresy vs publicity, the good of one vs the good of millions faced by the protagonists of the book were extremely interesting, very well incorporated in the plot without being thrown at our faces but also, thankfully, their "judgement" was left to us readers, as Banks kept his opinions to himself, although of course we are free to guess them. I also immensely enjoyed his non-human and yet so human protagonists, the Minds and Ships... If this is what the future holds in store for us, then I can only use Shakespeare's words "oh brave new world that has such creatures in it"!
I didn't give Excession 5 stars, which I reserve only for masters such as Herbert and, in another genre, Tolkien, but I do wish Amazon allowed a 4.5 rating. Overall, this is a great book, and, for me, a reason to re-read my old copies of other Culture books and, in general, re-start reading Banks. If you like books not only for the plot, the imagination, the characterisations and the amusement, but also for the sheer pleasure of reading, I suggest you do the same.