Picked it up today, finally found it in normal (ie relatively cheap) paperback. A few comments ensue, in no real order. If you haven't read it, then you might not want to read this. -The infamous Torturer class ROU must have been the most commonly built Culture warship, as one appears yet again. Interestingly, the general design of it seems to have shifted. Instead of the infamous dildo of doom associated up till now with most OUs, it's essentially an engine cluster with weapons attached, and appeared almost cobbled together. Interesting change in description. Perhaps the class only distinguishes between ships with roughly equivalent capabilities, with the ones seen previously beeing 'civilized' and more aesthetic, whereas this one is unaltered from the original war model. -The Homomdans are stated as being ahead of the Culture during the Idiran war, sufficiently so that the Culture didn't want to bring them fully into the war on the Idiran's side. They are also much older than the Culture, giving them an age in at least several tens of thousands of years. However, they seem to have eschewed the extensive personal alteration of the Culture. Is this due to religious reasons, did they never indulge in it, or have they simply grown out of it? -The Culture seems to maintain a fairly significant fleet around the Chelgrian sphere. Why? A single ROU could inflict untold damage to the Chelgrian infrastructure, they apparently lack displacer, effector and orbital construction techology, and give the impression of being less advanced than the Affront. This speaks for a civilization much less advanced, so why so many ships? -The GSV Sanctioned Parts List actually had an escort, thic coupled with the Hub's comment about having to get ready for a war setting at one point in the recentish past suggests that the galaxy may not be quite so friendly as it used to be. -Hub states a GCV is under construction. Now, is this a simple typo of GSV or GCU, or are we looking at a previously-unseen class of ship, perhaps an oversized GCU? -The device used in the attempt to kill Hub was of a much higher tech level than the Chelgrians possesed, in fact it's implied that a (perhaps) rogue element in the Culture itself was behind it. We've seen other Minds try similar stunts, although they normally try to avoid killing other Minds. One theory put forward is that Culture Minds may be doing this simply to keep the Culture as a whole engaged and 'on it's toes'. Obviously, this is MiB, Interesting Time Club level stuff. Banks seems to be putting more evidence of the Culture being in direct warfare in his more recent books (Excession, and LtW specifically) and is also bringing up the whole Mind cabal theme. Perhaps the future of the Culture holds a large scale 'revolt' pitting Mind against Mind, with one or more smaller civilization stuck on the sharp end of the Culture's war machine. -The Chelgrians are referred to as the 'Lesser Reviled' in connection with the Sansemin. Is this connected to a minor point I missed earlier, or simply a subtle hint that the Chelgrian arrogance (I suppose) is going to doom them sooner or later. That's all for now.