Against A Dark Background
If you’re thinking about reading anything by Iain M. Banks, this isn’t the book you should read. You should read The Player of Games. It’s not that this is a “bad book” by any means, it’s just not one of his finer works, so why prioritize it?
Unlike the Culture series, where each book generally has a fairly strong controlling idea which makes you think long and hard after you finish the final chapter, this book felt rather arbitrary. Protagonist puts the band back together, only to have the band get killed off one by one (meaninglessly, so I don’t feel bad about the spoiler) to artificially raise the stakes towards the end of the book. The ending was abrupt and disappointing, so much so, apparently he released an epilogue after the fact to clarify and provide more resolution to the Feril and Sharrow character arcs.
Even though I enjoyed the writing a good deal (and honestly keep reading these more esoteric Banks books to attend the School of Banksian Style), the plot just didn’t work for me. I found myself wanting it to end so I could move on to the next book, never a good sign.
So yeah, go read The Player of Games, and then the whole Culture series if you like that. This can wait for another time.