YMMV / The Culture

  • Boring Invincible Hero: A common view of the Culture, in universe and out. Whilst the Culture is easily one of the most powerful meta-civs in the galaxy (possibly others), it is the first to admit that the Sublimed have them down each time. So they don't bother messing with them. And the Culture only stay "invincible" because there are people, drones, and Minds, who are capable of doing anything necessary to protect its continued existence and interests.
  • Complete Monster: Emperor-Regent Nicosar & Joiler Veppers. See the pages for more details.
  • Gambit Pileup
    • You could also say the entire plot of Surface Detail. If Vatueil is in fact Cheradenine Zakalwe, we know that the Culture never took their eye off him after (or during) the events of Use of Weapons. A major part of Yime Nsokyi's plot is about how Special Circumstances tried to recruit her, and when she rejected them, they recruited and manipulated her anyway, without her knowing, simply because she was perfect for what they had intended. While she forms a rather insignificant part of the plot of the book, this proves that Special Circumstances don't let go of anybody, and are perfectly capable of the type of extreme manipulation that would be required to get Vatueil to win the war for the Anti-Hell side. They knew how we would act and put him in the right place. All along we are told that the Culture is staying out of the War, only paying a passing interest in case it spills into the Real, even though they very much have opinions about it, they are staking their entire reputation and their own Culture principles on not getting involved, and yet, if Vatueil is Zakalwe, they were more involved than anyone else, but still allowing themselves to be distant. If Vatueil had just been some random dude and the rest of the book had been identical, we couldn't conclusively say the Culture planned every moment of that book.
  • Mary Suetopia: One thing that makes Banks such a great writer is how he averts this: he is the first to admit that the Culture is the "ideal society" in which he dreams to live, and he is also the first to show how imperfect it is. Specifically the possibility for complete, mind numbing boredom, and the repeated claim (by both citizens and outsiders) that The Culture in fact cannot stand cultures different to its own, and so seeks to "sanitize" the rest of the galaxy. Staving off this boredom and giving purpose to the Culture's existence may be Contact's real function. Also, the utopian nature of the Culture is presented as entirely a function of their post-scarcity economics. When they find anything that actually is scarce, they are only too ready to compete over it. e.g. the Minds scheming and fighting over the titular Excession, or the various lengths Culture citizens go to in pursuit of tickets to the first night performance in Look to Windward. Ultimately, Banks simply acknowledges that even the Culture can't be all things to all people; it's just as close as the author can make it, while still being mindful of the reader.
  • Tear Jerker: Quite a few of these have taken place throughout the series. One of the most notable would be, for example, the conjoined fate of the Masaq Hub and Quilan in Look to Windward Or the real Zakalwe's backstory in Use of Weapons. In Matter there was also the kicker of Oramen's sudden death, along with Ferbin's later self-sacrifice
  • Technology Marches On: While the Culture was always ridiculously technologically advanced, it's kind of noticeable that details like the very instant message/message board discussion-like Mind communications only started being mentioned in more recent books, written after the internet entered popular use.