In Arthur C. Clarke's famous saying, any sufficiently advanced technology is...
This book tells a tale of a time when the Earth is populated by descendants of those people who were (or chose to be) left behind when technology reached a point which they could no longer cope with. As a result they live in a world which they barely understand, surrounded by the legacy of people using a science way beyond them. Nonetheless, humans being adaptable creatures, they have created a society which just about functions, using the technology they were left, packed with all the usual human virtues and vices, lacking only the faintest idea of why they are where they are. It is only when they discover that their civilisation - and indeed planet - is threatened by something far beyond their abilities that they have to come to terms with what they have lost. Characteristically, they respond in different ways, most of them counterproductive.
The book is told from four viewpoints: a power struggle within the ruling clan, a loser in that power struggle, a boy caught up in the struggle without realising it and a mysterious external factor called an "asura" who despite her initial air of harmlessness is clearly going to be bad news for someone.
Initially the book is hard to get to grips with as these four strands interweave, particularly as the boy speaks/writes a phonetic English which takes hard work and practice to read at a reasonably normal pace. However, as the story starts to gel, the characters and plotting slowly become irresistible and by the end the reader has a real feeling of satisfaction for sticking with it.
This is not as easy to read as some of the Culture novels but in its own way it is every bit as rewarding as, say, The Player Of Games.