Iain Banks, Matter (the beginning)

I've been reading Iain Banks's Matter, and I have to say that while I'm only on chapter 4, Banks's new book is edging dangerously close to being a book easy to put down and never pick up again. Chapter 4 features one of the longest infodumps I have yet to read in a Banks novel, a long if colorful description that seems no end with Banks smirking at his audience saying, "This is my setting. Isn't it cool?"

Actually, Iain, no, it's not cool. Superstructures are old hat, as are abandoned giant manufactured worlds, even ones that occasionally kill you. I'm sure you'll do something interesting with your usual mix of characters, ending with some wry observation on human nature that may or may not be completely off base, and possibly attempting to reach for some crowning moment of awesome that quite possibly will leave some of your audience starstruck and the rest of us going, "Yeah, that was almost as good as Karl Schroeder dropping a house off the edge of a ringworld in Lady of Mazes."

Anyway, Matter feels like a classic Banks chess game: lining up all his pieces and then playing them off one against the other, kings, queens, knights, bishops, and pawns. I'll read it all the way through, I'm sure. Banks's literatary skills are good, honed so sharp even a formulaic Culture novel can survive being formulaic. The info dump is heralded by four pages of a dialog between two aliens in which just enough is revealed to make you want to read the infodump just so you'll know what the hell those two are talking about, and followed by the characters resuming their conversation as if any listeners were now fully educated, although with some foreshadowing so painfully obvious it had better red herring in the end.

Earlier: Back in the groove, for a moment...

Later: Getting caught up.