What drives me to read science fiction is to make contact with well-built, convincing fictional universes where interesting plots take place. The literary talent of the author simply does not matter as long as he or she has the ultimate talent of telling an interesting story. Indeed, arcane luminaries of the Science Fiction genre, such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke, almost invariably have a plain, objective narrative style.
Well, this is my first book by Iain M. Banks, but so far I can say that he goes in the opposite way: the style of his book is baroquely sculpted and each character is exhaustively (yet subtly) worked upon. Even though, the plot and setting told/described with such a literary richness is simply crappy.
Iain M. Banks' Culture universe resembles some idiotic science fiction cartoon or movie (such as "The Jetsons" or "The Fifth Element") turned into a book. In some ways, it also resembles "The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy", but the problem is that it is not exactly intended to be comical. As for the plot, there is basically no strong central narrative line, nothing that makes the reader (or at least me) cares about what will happen in the next page or how the book will end. As a matter of fact, it is a remarkably boring, tiring reading, and I took perhaps two or three more times to finish this book than the average for a compendium of the same size.
Putting it shortly, Iain M. Banks seems to be an author for someone who loves form but does not demand content.