This was a re-read, as I seem to be re-reading the entire Culture series book by book for the 2nd (and in some cases 3rd or 4th) time. This is at least partly due to my efforts to get more people to read the Culture novels (which have paid off handsomely, see here!), and which has inevitably led me to re-read the novels so that I know what I am talking about/can verify that they haven't changed. So, _Matter_ was next on the list. And it was much like I remembered it, a good but not great entry in the series. There are the standard Banks' ideas of having the same themes played out at different levels of scale and of reality, as well his general propaganda in favor of not being a dick and working to order/design/imagine things so that suffering and inefficiency are minimized. A notable inclusion in this book is a sort of Shakespearean element, as many of the characters and their speech/thought/plot patterns are from a medieval level civilization. These Shakespearean threads are interwoven with and collide in amusing ways with the more standard Banksian space opera elements. Another notable inclusion was way too much detail about structures, hallways, door ways, passage ways, chambers, architecture, portals, and various accommodations. Maybe I just lack the sort of spatial imagination to appreciate these parts, but I feel like there was a lot of scene setting here that could have been skipped over. This is mostly focused around the Nameless city and the transport between the layers of the ShellWorld. Hmm, what other random things to note. I liked all of the characters? Basically every main character in this story is sort of quietly enjoyable and interesting to read about, while still being noticeably different from each other. I especially liked Anaplian and her sequence on joining the Culture and being uplifted to their standards. It is such a sweet and wonderful bit of utopianism. Banks really is the king of Utopianism, and it is always such a drop coming down off of him back to things like, say, American politics.
Historical Note: I first read _Matter_ years ago, so many years ago that it was the source of my Steam Id. I always liked the Aultridia and their hapless persecution and fairly good intentions.