Excession is the fourth Culture novel, written by Iain M. Banks. It concerns the reactions of individuals (mostly Minds) of the Culture (and other interspatial species) to the discovery of an unknown and enigmatic artifact: The Excession.
Excession provides examples of the following tropes:
Anachronic Order: The book has two plot lines: One running normally and detailing the reactions to the Excession, and a second that consists of flashbacks about Byr and Dajeil's life.
A rather subtle one: In The Player of Games, Yay (who is on an Orbital landscaping committee) expresses her desire to make floating islands on Orbitals. In this novel, Tishlin takes an airship ride among floating islands on an Orbital.
Exposition of Immortality: The Drone Churt Lyne, who accompanies Ulver Seich on her travels, is mentioned as having been a family friend for a millennia with parts of its personality dating back to ancient household computer programs from 9,000 years ago. The MSV Not Invented Here is also pretty old: Desert-class MSVs were among the original "large self-sustaining" ship designs the Culture came up with two millennia prior to the Idiran War, which itself took place 800 years before the events of Excession.
Face Palm: The Fate Amenable to Change, metaphorically.
If the Fate Amenable to Change had been a human, at this point, it would have looked down, put one hand over its eyes, and shaken its head.
Faster-Than-Light Travel: Taken to a mind-bending degree. To get away from its official/unofficial stalker, the Sleeper Service converts all its extra mass into one huge engine — this is a ship with an internal volume of over a hundred thousand cubic kilometers — and reaches somewhere in the vicinity of 230,000 times lightspeed. By the end, the stalker is left asking itself, "Where is it going, Andromeda?!" note No, "Leo II".
What Grey Area does to organic creatures it doesn't like. Also crosses over with And I Must Scream.
For the Evulz: Affront culture. Every facet. A particularly vile example include the fact that one of the very first things the Affront did when they gained enough knowledge of genetic manipulation was to alter all their females so that they would only feel pain and fear during any vaguely sexual situation.
Laughably Evil: The Affront, who are so innocently enthusiastic about their bloodthirsty viciousness that most higher civilizations that encounter them can't help but be amused. Not everyone appreciates the joke, though.
Mercy Kill: The Affronter Captain that committed suicide in a particularly painful way, rather than live with the shame of defeat, was put out of his misery by theHeavy Messing.
Mind Rape: The Grey Area. There is a reason the other Minds call it Meatfucker. Effectors are pretty much this when used as weaponry, which is doing is such a taboo for culture Minds (at least when the victim is a living creature). The Attitude Adjuster is killed this way, being made to believe that it has crossed the Moral Event Horizon and forced to commit suicide.
More Dakka: Or at least the threat of it, is how the Sleeper Service prevents the impending war between the Culture and the Affront. As well as converting much of its mass to engines, it has also spent its time as an Eccentric constructing more than 80,000 warships. These range from thousands of the smaller Thug and Gangster classes (which are still capable, individually, of killing planets) to 512 Abominator class capital ships (a single one of which curbstomped an entire battle group of warships far more advanced than those possessed by the Affront in milliseconds in Surface Detail).
The usual example [of] an Outside Context Problem was imagining you were a tribe on a largish, fertile island; you'd tamed the land, invented the wheel or writing or whatever, the neighbours were cooperative... and you were busy raising temples to yourself and the whole situation was just running along nicely like a canoe on wet grass... when suddenly a bristling lump of iron appears sailless and trailing steam in the bay and these guys carrying long funny-looking sticks come ashore and announce you've just been discovered, you're subjects of the Emperor now, he's keen on presents called tax and these bright-eyed holy men would like a word with your priests.
Planet of Hats: The Affront, an entire race of cheerfully sociopathic Boisterous Bruisers. Deconstructed somewhat, in that they have exactly the sort of international standing one would expect given their behaviour.
Torture Technician: Grey Area. It actually carries a huge museum of torture devices, complete with demonstration videos. Its most efficiently painful device? A neural-lace. You know, that one thing that practically everyone in The Culture has.