The Culture stories are set in the same fictional universe but don’t have to be read in any particular order. Here are a few of the best.
Use of Weapons: Not the first published Culture novel (that was Consider Phlebas) but the first one Banks wrote. It tells the tale of an amoral agent operating on the fringes of a civilisation called The Culture. “I’d no idea I’d still be interested in it years later,” says Banks.
The State of the Art: A selection of nifty science-fiction stories.
Excession: It focuses on the Minds, artificial intelligences who run the Culture. “They’re like Greek gods,” says Banks. “They’re fallible and contentious and always squabbling.”
Look the Windward: An elegiac sort-of sequel to Consider Phlebas, its themes are bereavement and post-traumatic shock. But there are also explosions. “I like my explosions,” says Banks. “I blame Gerry Anderson and Thunderbirds.”