Iain M. Banks
Intricate, disconcerting far-future saga from the author The Player of Games (1989), etc., in which the Encroachment, a cloud of space dust, threatens to extinguish all life on Earth. The characters interact mostly within a colossal building called the Serehfa, which incorporates an advanced computer network of which the crypt, a virtual reality realm where stored personalities roam and interact, is menaced by slowly advancing chaos. King Adijine, who possesses the means to spy on anyone anywhere, has gone to war with the Chapel Engineers over control of a mysterious something that may be of assistance against the Encroachment. His Chief Scientist, Hortis Gadfium, has formed a conspiracy to search for a better way to tackle the problem; she receives a strange but encouraging message from the top of the fast-tower, an area long isolated from the rest of the building that was once the anchor for a space elevator system. The Asura, a young woman gradually recalling her memories and purpose, embodies another message, this from one independent part of the computer system to another. When Count Alandre Sessine is murdered, his relict in the crypt prompts another version of himself, prepared long ago, to find out why. And young Bascule, a Teller who converses with the occupants of the crypt, adds his nearly unintelligible voice to the narrative: "He lukes @ me & wails Feerth, Mr. Bathcule! Feerth! & then juss keels ovir on2 thi flor ov thi box, his Is stil opin." Quite a brew, and they haven't even begun to save the world yet. An extraordinary, often brilliantly inventive odyssey, so dense and complicated that Banks must pause halfway through and again at the end simply to provide catch-up explanations. Dazzling stuff: a shame it doesn't add up.